Members of the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific, which provides most of the crews on Alaska ferries, have voted down a tentative contract and have returned to the bargaining table.
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The state had offered a one-year contract with a 3 percent wage increase and other provisions, but it was rejected by the union's membership in September, said Darryl Tseu, regional director for the union.
The IBU represents unlicensed crew members, such as deck hands and cabin stewards.
Tseu said union membership found the wage offer acceptable.
"What we were looking for was health care benefits," he said.
Tseu said the state was offering its members health care benefits worth $852 per month, while the Alaska State Employees Association's members were offered "substantially more" per month.
IBU members voted in favor of the contract by a vote of 95 to 86, but IBU rules require a majority in each of the union's departments to approve the contract as well. Pursers and Steward departments voted against the contract, while Deck and Engine departments voted in favor.
The union has another negotiating session scheduled for late November.
Tseu said he'd prefer it to be sooner, but the Department of Administration was unable to schedule it sooner because they're busy with other issues.
"I would love to see it go a little faster, but they're claiming they don't have the dates open for negotiations," he said. "We just take what we can get."
Commissioner Annette Kreitzer of the Department of Administration said the most recent delay in resumption of negations was at the request of the IBU.
The state also has ongoing negotiations with its Supervisory Unit, represented by the Alaska Public Employees Association.
In addition, the state's largest union, the Alaska State Employees Association, is conducting a ratification vote on a tentative contract.
ASEA's negotiating team reached an agreement with the state, but its Juneau chapter and others have recommended a vote against the contract.
Juneau Chapter President Steve Wright said IBU contract rejection was likely to be less important to his union's members than the Supervisory Unit being unable to reach an agreement.
"My sense is that our members may be more influenced by the fact that the Supervisory Unit has not arrived at a tentative contract agreement," he said.
The IBU contract expired at the end of June.
The rejected contract called for the pay raises being retroactive, but there is no guarantee the new contract will be retroactive. Money for any agreement reached will have to be approved by the Legislature in 2008, and Tseu said he hoped to have a new contract late this year or very early next year.
Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or email@example.com.