Sullivan turns down unions' offer to freeze wages if new labor law is delayed

rshinohara@adn.comMarch 14, 2013 

— Mayor Dan Sullivan has sent city union leaders a letter turning down the unions' offer to take wage freezes for a year if the administration would "indefinitely table" the mayor's proposal to rewrite city labor law, which would reduce the power of the unions.

Sullivan said in the letter, which was made public Thursday:

"... it appears much of the criticism from the unions is based on philosophical opposition to allowing the Assembly and administration to exercise more control over how contracts are negotiated. Tabling this ordinance will not change that difference of opinion."

Sullivan's proposal limits annual raises, standardizes some benefit programs among unions, and takes away the power of any city unions to strike or undergo binding arbitration. The proposal also sets up a system for outsourcing work now done by city staff.

The proposal is up before the Assembly on March 26. Sullivan wants it in place before the administration begins a new round of union bargaining in April.

The five unions with contracts up for negotiation in 2013 last week offered to freeze their members' pay and extend existing contracts for a year if he mayor would agree to delay the proposal.

"Our position is not that tabling it will change people's opinions, but it will allow time and a mechanism for a collaborative process with the administration and their employees," said Anchorage Police Department Sgt. Gerard Asselin.

Asselin, an officer of the police union, is spokesman for a coalition of all the city unions.

"The mayor seems to be trying to collectively bargain through the media and through this ordinance. Normally the administration sits down with its work groups and discusses things," Asselin said.

Sullivan in his letter also said there have been misconceptions about the outsourcing section, which the administration called managed competition, and whether there will be pay enhancements or step increases allowed.

He said the proposal only sets out a framework for possible managed competition.

And he said the ordinance doesn't affect normal step increases on the pay scale, nor does it eliminate pay enhancements for a specific job requirement that requires specialized training or certification.

Asselin said the union would like such statements spelled out in the law.

"Our position is write it in there so it would be clear, then there wouldn't be different interpretations," he said.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.

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