State ferry union ratifies 3-year worker contracts

Two more maritime labor unions needed to privatize village runs

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

The membership of the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, which represents some 80 maritime state workers, has ratified a three-year contract by a vote of 80-20.

The contract increases workers' pay by 7 percent in the first year and 6 percent in the second and third years. It also allows the state to contract out ferry service to the private sector for the Southeast towns of Hoonah, Kake, Angoon, Pelican and Tenakee.

Two other maritime labor unions, the Inland Boatmen's Union of the Pacific and Master's, Mates and Pilots, reached tentative agreements with the state earlier this year, but neither union has had its membership vote to approve the contracts.

The contracts still require approval by the Alaska Legislature, which convenes in January.

Joe Geldhof, a legal representative for MEBA, said the contracts were ratified Aug. 11.

"The membership expressed some reservations about the elimination of jurisdiction on the village run and some minor concern about the Legislature following through so that these folks that haven't gotten a raise in a long time will get their pay increase," he said.

Pete Lapinski, business agent for the Inland Boatmen's Union of the Pacific-Alaska Region, said the IBU membership will vote on the proposed contracts before the end of the year. He noted that all three unions are still negotiating with the state for worker contracts for the new fast ferry Fairweather and Ketchikan/Metlakatla shuttle ferry Lituya.

The IBU represents about 600 unlicensed ferry workers.

Lapinski said that in late July almost 99 percent of the IBU membership approved strike authorization if the state doesn't reach an agreement with the union on the contracts. That includes the prospect of the Legislature refusing to fund the pay increases.

"We could strike at any time," Lapinski said. "It probably would be late spring or early summer (of 2005)."

Ron Leighton, Alaska's representative for the union known as the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, confirmed that the MM&P membership has not yet ratified the contracts. But he would reveal little more.

"There's really not much I can say," he said. "The biggest issue is we're still in the middle of the fast ferry negotiations."

MM&P represents 77 ferry workers in Alaska, Leighton said.

He said the issue likely would come to a vote before the end of the year.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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