Hundreds of Alaska ferry workers go on strike

Hundreds of ferry workers went on strike Wednesday after failing to reach agreement on a contract with state negotiators. (Photo Courtesy of KTUU Anchorage)
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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Hundreds of ferry workers went on strike Wednesday after failing to reach agreement on a contract with state negotiators.

Robb Arnold, a spokesman for Alaska’s Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, said the strike began Wednesday afternoon after a meeting with state officials did not yield an agreement. He said the union remains open to a deal.

“Unfortunately, we had to take this action,” he said. Eighty-six percent of the union’s membership had earlier authorized a strike, he said.

The state Department of Administration said late Tuesday the sides were at an impasse following the rejection of “numerous fair and fiscally responsible contract offers.”

The union represents about 430 workers and is one of three representing Alaska Marine Highway System workers, the department said. Talks between the state and union have gone on for over 2½ years, Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka said.

Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, referred a reporter to the department’s Tuesday statement.

The union said the state proposed mandatory overtime instead of hiring more workers and a one-year contract instead of “more efficient” three-year agreements. It also cited what it says has been poor treatment by management.

According to the department, the state, under the prior administration, offered a 5% pay increase over three years. The union proposed a 9% pay increase over three years and allowing workers to choose which ships they work on. That would have limited the state’s ability to manage the ferries as effectively as possible, the department said.

There were other points of disagreement, the department said.

State ferries serve many communities not connected to the road system, running in southeast Alaska, the Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutian Islands.