Ferry union rejects tentative agreement

Organization, Palin administration will resume talks soon

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The largest union on the Alaska Marine Highway System has rejected the Palin administration's latest contract offer, with 92 percent of its members rejecting the contract.

Members of the Inland Boatmen's Union of the Pacific overwhelmingly rejected the contract Friday in a vote that was announced Monday.

IBU Regional Director Daryl Tseu said he told the state's bargaining team from the Division of Personnel and Labor Relations that there were multiple aspects of the state's contract proposal that the crew members would oppose and fail to ratify the contract.

"The state's position was, 'We think they'll do it,'" he said. "For some odd reason they felt they knew the employees better than the union did."

The IBU and the state will resume negotiations in early July. While the contract rejection also authorized the IBU to strike, Tseu said he was confident that could be avoided, despite a tough stance taken by the state so far.

Labor Relations analyst Nancy Sutch, part of the administration's bargaining team, said she, too, felt they'd be able to work out their differences.

"I am confident we can come to an agreement," she said.

An earlier contract proposal was voted down in September of last year. The 700 member IBU joins two other ferry system unions in working without contracts.

The International Association of Masters, Mates and Pilots' 110 members and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Union's 111 members are working without contracts as of today.

"Not having a successor agreement, typically we operate under the status quo if we are still in good faith negotiations," Sutch said.

Sutch said she did not know what aspects of the contract caused it to be voted down.

Tseu said his members had problems with a state proposal to replace sick leave with personal leave. Sutch said that was something the state was trying to switch to across the board, and only a couple of unions had not agreed to the change. One of those is MM&P, she said.

"Initially, up front, there will be a cost," she said. "The anticipation down the line is it will save the state money."

Tseu said members also had balked at a $16 per month increase in the state's contribution for health care, saying costs had risen substantially more than that and the members would have to pick up the difference. Other, bigger unions were getting more on a per-member basis, he said.

The rejected contract also included a 3 percent salary increase.

"Some older members, they can't remember a more aggressive approach from the administration to take away benefits, some of the things we've achieved over the years," Tseu said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or e-mail patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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