Alaska Marine Highway service will continue to Angoon and Pelican while the state negotiates an agreement with two unions on back pay.
State officials said Tuesday that ferry service to the two island communities had been jeopardized by an arbitrator's ruling that upheld union grievances concerning replacement vessels for the LeConte, which ran aground May 10.
On Thursday, Department of Administration Commissioner Ray Matiashowski said an agreement was reached to allow the service to continue while the parties continue to negotiate.
The Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association and the Masters, Mates and Pilots union claimed the state had violated collective bargaining agreements by contracting for replacement service with Alaska Catamarans, which employs personnel from outside the unions.
The unions argued that their contracts with the state required that the replacement vessels be staffed by union members or that the replacement company's staff join the unions.
Arbitrator Gordon M. Byrholdt of Anacortes, Wash., agreed in an order he signed July 27. The parties agreed not to discuss specific terms of the agreement to continue service, the state said in a news release.
"We are pleased that the unions were sensitive to the needs of these communities and were willing to work with us to get a resolution," Matiashowski said.
MEBA representative Ben Goldrich said the union understands that the marine highway has become a vital part of village culture.
"We are committed to our friends and relatives in these communities," he said.
Don Kubley, governmental liaison for MM&P, said the people who work on the ferries see firsthand what they mean to village life.
"We want to see even more service to the villages," he said.
The LeConte, which has been out of service since it ran aground on a run between Angoon and Sitka on May 10, is scheduled to return to service in October.
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