The Skinny on the AMHS Strike Terms - P.O.W. Report

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Skinny on the AMHS Strike Terms

Urban Dictionary:

The Skinny: Summarization of events. What happened or what the point is or whatever without using 10,000 words.

In my line of work, more words equals a better paycheck, however, for the sake of getting to the point here is what we learned during the negotiation:

It took the state and IBU nine days to resolve the contract dispute. The Alaska Marine Highway System didn’t get back up and running until two days later.

In all, 8,570 passengers were affected along with 2,468 vehicles. Refunds cost the system upwards of $3.3 million. It was the busiest time of year and caught many — including Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration — off-guard. [...]

The contract negotiations predate the Dunleavy administration. The IBU’s 430-odd members were still working off their last contract that expired in 2017. This year they were asked to forego any wage adjustments — that would be up for negotiation next year. Both sides presented what they termed their “final and best offer” before the state declared an impasse.

“Eighty-six percent of our members rejected that offer and gave us authorization to strike,” Arnold said.

So what did the IBU win? First, it got a three-year contract. The state had been offering a one-year term. The union workers still have their pay frozen at 2017 levels. But they’ll get 1.5 percent increases in 2020 and the year after that. [...]

There’s some important context here: the legislature only appropriated $46 million to the ferry system for next fiscal year. That’s around $44 million less than last year amongst years of cost-cutting. Under a draft winter schedule released last month, some coastal communities stand to lose service for seven months starting in October. [...]

IBU members will no longer pay for hotels out of pocket. That’s been an issue with the fleet’s new Alaska Class Ferries — so-called “day boats” that lack crew quarters — forcing crew members to overnight in hotels between voyages and then wait weeks to be reimbursed the state.

Must Read Alaska:

Must Read Alaska has learned from sources knowledgeable with the recent union negotiations that the Inland Boatmen’s Union workforce got a whole lot less in the contract it ratified over the weekend than it had been offered by the former Walker Administration last year.

The 430 ferry workers in the IBU had not received a raise since it was unable to come to an agreement with the Walker Administration in 2017, when the last three-year contract expired.

According to MRAK sources, the Walker Administration, through Commissioner of Administration Leslie Ridle, had offered the IBU a 3-1-1 raise last fall.

That means they would have gotten a 3 percent raise in this year, and a 1 percent raise in each of the two following years. [...]

Instead, after striking for nine days and being out of work during the high season of summer, the IBU negotiators settled for a 0 percent raise the first year and a 1-1/2 percent raise for the two subsequent years — a total of 3 percent over three years.

For a worker who makes $20 an hour, that means the union negotiators cost them 40 cents an hour over the three-year contract.

The 9-day strike has cost the Alaska Marine Highway System $4 million in direct costs, which includes lost fares. The cost of the indirect losses is immeasurable: The reliability, the cost to communities and businesses — these are all questions for an economist at the McDowell Group to look at.

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