IBU union was offered better contract last year, but wouldn’t take it


The state ferries are running again and all is right with the world for the coastal communities served by the Alaska Marine Highway System.

But 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.

A 3 percent raise in a contract’s first year is a solid raise. The following percentages for two years build on that.

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.

The Alaska Marine Highway System budget had been counting on $3.2 million it had to refund to passengers to help cover some of the cost of the winter schedule, which had already been reduced due to budget cuts. The additional $5 million in ferry funds that Rep. Louise Stutes wedged into the budget will cover the cost of the strike, and not much more, but is subject to a veto from the governor, who is now considering a long list of budget items given to him by the Legislature.