February 7, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 5

Borough, union to negotiate new contract

The Haines Borough has put together its bargaining team for upcoming negotiations with the Local 71 Union regarding a new collective bargaining agreement for borough workers.

The current, three-year agreement expires June 30, 2013.

The borough’s team consists of Mayor Stephanie Scott, personnel committee chair Joanne Waterman, borough manager Mark Earnest, chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart and police chief Gary Lowe. Earnest is spokesman for the borough’s bargaining team.

Cathy Keller, who handles payroll and accounts payable for the borough, is a member of the union’s negotiating team and said the union is still looking for local employees to sit on its bargaining team.

The only other confirmed member is water and sewer operator Scott Bradford. Juneau-based Tom Brice is the union’s spokesman in the negotiations.

Keller said she anticipates the union team will have an initial meeting at some point in February. “That meeting will be getting together to talk about what we want to ask for or what changes we would like to make,” she said.

Earnest said the borough team will also hold an initial meeting in February. Both teams will then agree to meet to lay down ground rules for the negotiations. One of those ground rules, Keller said, is not talking to the media or disclosing what the union will be asking for. “The very first thing we do when we start to negotiate is we agree that we don’t talk to the press,” Keller said.

“We don’t negotiate through the press. These are all done in essentially executive session,” Earnest said.

The last contract negotiations in spring 2010 resulted in the adoption of a new step chart, which identified each borough job and the 17-step pay range applicable to each position. Each step reflected a 45 cent increase. The agreement stated a 2 percent raise would apply to the first step beginning July 1, 2011, with each step still increasing by 45 cents. The same raise was applied again on July 1, 2012, according to the agreement.

Wages, health insurance, and travel compensation are usually issues of discussion, Earnest said.

Mayor Scott said the negotiations are very time-consuming, as every detail needs to be hammered out and agreed upon. How long negotiations will last, though, is anyone’s guess.

“Other bargaining sessions have run past the budget adoption date and you’re basically kind of locked in with the last terms of the (agreement). You hear about negotiations that have stretched on for a year or two, but I’m not expecting that to be the case here; just the opposite,” Earnest said.