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City reaches agreement with electrical workers union

Devin Kelly

City leaders have reached an agreement with the electrical workers union on a new contract granting  yearly 1.5 percent raises through 2016. The contract is now awaiting Anchorage Assembly approval. 

The contract was ratified by the 220-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547 on June 26. More than half of the union members are Municipal Light and Power electrical workers for the city-owned power company. The remainder work in community development and public works.

The contract would increase by about 2 percent the annual labor costs covered under the contract, which translates to about $1.4 million in 2015 and $1.2 million in 2016.

Melinda Taylor, the union's communications director, declined to comment on the negotiations ahead of Assembly approval.

The deal amounts to a 1.5 percent pay raise for the first full pay period after Assembly approval, which is expected to come by early September and translate into about four months of increased wages in 2014. Wages would increase another 1.5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

In an interview, Mayor Dan Sullivan said the contract reflects the administration’s goal of curbing the growth in labor costs and bringing contracts in line with local economic conditions and the private sector.

In March 2013, Sullivan led the passage of a law, Anchorage Ordinance 37 or AO-37, aimed at limiting annual pay increases and eliminating raises based solely on longevity or performance bonuses, as well as forbidding strikes. The measure was suspended after municipal unions gathered enough signatures to put it on the November ballot, but recently negotiated contracts have included the elimination of performance incentive programs, and shortened the length of the contracts from five years to three.

The new IBEW contract eliminates a provision that required non-union contractors seeking a contract with Municipal Light and Power to first gain a union contract, or approval from the union.

Under the proposed contract, the city is increasing its pension contribution by 25 cents an hour, with two more increases of the same amount set for 2015 and 2016.

The Assembly is expected to approve the contract, Assembly member Dick Traini said.

“I don’t anticipate a problem at all,” he said.

The Sullivan administration has now signed contracts with seven of the city's nine bargaining units.

Negotiations are now beginning with Anchorage’s police and fire unions, whose workers draw higher salaries than other city employees. Both contracts expire at the end of 2014.