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Fishing bounty smooths negotiations with Unalaska city employees

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman
The new contract isn't much different, but employees will now be required to maintain a cushion of 40 extra hours of personal leave, just in case notoriously bad weather extends vacations by keeping planes from returning to the Aleutian Island community. Loren Holmes photo

UNALASKA -- Labor harmony continues to prevail between employers and unionized public employees in Unalaska, thanks to ample fisheries-derived tax revenues.

New contracts approved last month give a 12 percent pay raise over three years for many workers, though higher-paid senior employees’ raises are lower, at 7.5 percent in the same period.

The city last month approved three contracts, for workers at city hall, public works and utilities, and the department of parks, culture and recreation, according to assistant city manager Pat Jordan.

Contract negotiations were “very cordial, no issues or hangups,” Jordan said. All three contracts are with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302, based in Anchorage, he said. The talks were concluded in less than one week, he said.

Workers with less than 10 years of employment get a 6 percent raise the first year starting July 1, and 3 percent for the next two years, for a total of 12 percent. Higher-seniority workers get a 4.5 percent pay hike the first year, and 1.5 percent per year for the next two years, Jordan said.

“All in all, it seems to be a good contract,” said union steward Jerry Swihart , a city public works equipment operator, a member of the negotiating team along with Albert Burnham of PCR. The city was represented by Jordan and human resources manager Kelly Stiles.

Other than wages, little is changed in the new contracts, said Jordan. One difference, though, requires employees to maintain a minimum of 40 hours banked personal leave time, to avoid unpaid days off if stuck in Anchorage because of bad aviation weather while returning from vacation, he said.

“Employees shall allow for 40 hours remaining in their personal leave bank to prevent entering leave without pay status should travel plans change due to cancelled flights or any other situation that may delay their scheduled return to work date,” according to the contract language.

Workers continue to receive a $1,500 annual travel allowance, and full pay for jury duty.

Next year, the city negotiates with ports department workers, and with public safety employees a year later, Jordan said.

Last year, in equally harmonious labor talks, the Unalaska school board and teachers’ union agreed to a 9 percent raise for all teachers over a three-year period regardless of seniority.

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