Raises stall city union contract

Union wants $1-per-hour raises across the board

Posted: Tuesday, August 15, 2000

The city workers union wants $600,000 in raises, but says city negotiators claims of poverty have driven the union to declare an impasse.

We agree on everything that doesnt cost money, said Greg OClaray, business agent for the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, the group that represents some 300 of the citys 600 workers. Were OK on grievance procedures, leave schedules and work rules.

But the union and the city are at an impasse on all economic terms, including wages, shift differentials, standby pay rates, holidays and leave, and health benefits, OClaray said.

MEBA and the city have been negotiating since May. Their contract expired on June 30, but the two parties have signed an extension covering workers until after the November election. The concern is what the statewide tax cap proposal on that ballot might do city finances, he said.

The sticking point in the negotiations is the dollar-an-hour across-the-board raise the union is asking for, OClaray said.

Its a classic momandpop routine, he said. The assembly, which has the final word, has sent city negotiators (from the Personnel Department) to the table with no money to bargain with. You ask your mom if its OK to do something and she tells you to ask your dad. You ask him and he says to ask your mom.

The city is crying poverty and theyre sitting on $5.3 million in their rainy day account, OClaray said. The city and borough ought to recognize the economic need.

The three-year contract agreed to in 1997 gave the workers 2, 3 and 2 percent raises in each succeeding year.

But this time around, with the straight dollar-an-hour raise request, we thought wed have more of the money go to the people who need it, instead of it all going to the top, he said.

The unions hourly wages range from $7.84 for clerical positions to $25.40 for engineering technicians.

Typically, city/union negotiations open up in the spring, at about the same time as the assemblys budget deliberations, said Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce.

Then we know whats necessary when we adopt the budget, she said. But this year there was no room in the budget. We had started (deliberations) with a big deficit, and thats a little unusual.

Another consideration that weighs on the city is the statewide tax cap proposal, she said.

That statewide tax cap could cost the city $1.6 million, said Juneau Assembly Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Perkins. And if the assembly isnt willing to come up with new money, this is where some folks are going to get laid off.

The negotiations are likely to become a hot issue for assembly candidates this year, Perkins said.

MEBA expects to file with the Personnel Board within the next couple of days, OClaray said.

By ordinance, the assembly-appointed Personnel Board then calls for mediation and fact-finding, Pierce said. If the deadlock continues, an impartial mediator may be appointed by the board or the parties themselves may appoint the mediator. If an agreement is reached and is ratified by union members, the proposed contract is then presented to the assembly for final approval.

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