Negotiators for the State of Alaska have
reached a tentative agreement with the largest of the three maritime unions representing crewmembers of the M/V Fairweather, the state’s fast vehicle ferry. Agreement was reached earlier this week with the Inlandboatmens Union (IBU) on a three-year contract. Contract talks have continued with the IBU after the state declared an impasse in negotiations in December.
Terms of the tentative agreement are not being released, but negotiators said the state has entered into a letter of agreement with the IBU that allows winter operations of the Fairweather to continue, provided similar agreements can be reached with two other unions representing ferry workers.
“I am pleased that the members of the IBU negotiating team committed to staying at the negotiation table until we could work out our differences on the Fairweather,” said John Torgerson, a special assistant to DOT&PF Commissioner Mike Barton, and a member of the state’s negotiating team. “The state and IBU still need to reach an agreement on the M/V Lituya, the day boat that provides service between Metlakatla and Ketchikan. Contract negotiations are ongoing for the Lituya. It has been my opinion that we will not have a completed master agreement ready for consideration by the Legislature, until we have all components of it agreed upon.”
Each of the three unions operates under a master agreement covering all AMHS vessels in Southeast. Although the state’s original position was that the Fairweather should be a separate labor contract, the state agreed earlier in the negotiations to make it a supplemental to the master agreements.
Torgerson said the state is still seeking mediation with the other two unions – the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association and the Masters, Mates and Pilots – in hopes of finalizing a long-term agreement for the Fairweather. Commissioner Barton announced in December that if an agreement is not reached by January 25, the state will cease operating the Fairweather until an agreement is reached.
“January 25 is coming up fast,” Torgerson said.