State, unions reach pact on Chenega

Vessel will have 2 summer crews, 1 from October to May

Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2005

State negotiators and three labor unions operating the state's second fast ferry, Chenega, said they reached a final contract late Friday that included agreements on crew size and schedules.

The Chenega would run in Prince William Sound during the summer with winter operations in Southeast Alaska, according to the contract.

The union won approval of its proposal to have two crews seven days a week on board the Chenega during the summer, starting in May of 2006. The state had wanted to hire one crew.

But the vessel will be operated by a single crew four days a week between October and May, as well as for the remainder of the 2005 summer season.

The main points of dispute had been crew wages and hours, said Art Chance, the state director of labor relations.

The operating contract was approved by representatives of the Masters, Mates and Pilots, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, and the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific.

The Chenega, originally set to begin service July 1, could start sailing the fourth week in August, according to state officials.

The rapidly disappearing fast-ferry season has left Prince William Sound businesses and residents feeling high and dry.

"The general sentiment here is that we pretty much feel we have been betrayed," Cordova Mayor Timothy Joyce said.

The ferry originally was supposed to provide year-round service in Prince William Sound, but that plan changed in early summer when ferry chief Robin Taylor said the Chenega would run in Southeast Alaska during the fall and winter.

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