ASEA opens contract negotiations

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Alaska's largest labor union, the Alaska State Employees Association AFSCME Local 52, will begin negotiations with the state today on long-term labor contracts.

ASEA Business Manager Jim Duncan gave few details Monday about specific objectives the union expects to achieve in the negotiations. ASEA represents approximately 8,000 state employees, about 2,000 of which live in Juneau.

Duncan said ASEA does aim to negotiate three-year contracts this time around, unlike the one-year contracts offered last year by the incoming administration of Gov. Frank Murkowski.

The deal that 11 of the collective bargaining units agreed to last year included a one-year extension of the existing contracts and a $75-per-month increase in health benefits. The health insurance increase was expected to cost the state about $13 million. Those contracts expire on June 30, Duncan said.

The Master's, Mates and Pilots union, which represents maritime workers, was the only bargaining unit that did not accept the state's proposal.

Although the collective bargaining agreements for ASEA begin Wednesday, Duncan said nine of the 12 collective bargainingunits in the state have agreed to establish a bargaining coalition.

The six unions representing the nine collective bargaining units involved in the coalition include ASEA, the Alaska Public Employees Association, Public Employees Association Local 71, the National Education Association Alaska, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association and the Inland Boatmans Union.

Duncan said the coalition bargaining group idea surfaced in July at a labor summit in Anchorage.

We got together to discuss how coalition bargaining might work and the approach we would use, Duncan said. I think that the purpose is to show that state employees as a whole have a common interest, to show unification and to show solidarity.

Don Valesko, business manager for Local 71, said the coalition will hold its first formal meeting with the administration on Nov. 12.

We have made efforts in the past at getting together, but its hard to say what is going to take place beyond this, Valesko said. We anticipate that there would be the same terms collectively but that each unit could bargain for what they need for their particular unit.

Valesko also was tight-lipped about what Local 71 would push for in contract negotiations but added the unions membership is needing and expecting wage increases.

Inflation is eating at the bottom line of what they take home, Valesko said.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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