July 11, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 27

Assembly to decide on employee raises

The Haines Borough Assembly will decide July 23 whether to approve a package of raises and health insurance compensation for unionized borough workers which would increase the budget by about $151,000 in the current fiscal year.

The cost of the contract would increase over each of the following two years.

The Local 71 Union ratified the three-year contract Tuesday.

Chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart said she could not estimate how much the wage and health insurance increases would cost the borough over the three-year term, as the contract stipulates health insurance increases in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 will be split evenly between the borough and employees.

Borough and union negotiating teams spent more than 50 hours in meetings since March discussing contract terms. The teams issued a joint press release Wednesday, written by Stuart, as the negotiators agreed not to communicate with the media except through that avenue.

Under the agreement, the borough’s monthly share of the health insurance premiums would increase $203, from $1,097 to $1,300. That change would put the borough’s yearly contribution to employee health insurance at $675,500 for this fiscal year, or $82,480 more than last year.

Wage changes would increase the borough’s budget by about $69,000 in the upcoming year.

Some of the wage increases were made to certain groups of positions, which received more increases than others. For example, the tourism director position jumped up a step and the base wage for the position increased from $19.57 an hour to $21.25.

The old wages “were agreed to be out of line with competitive wages or with the requirements of the position,” according to the press release.

Other changes include a 50 cent annual step increase for qualifying employees (the previous step chart had 45-cent steps), a 1 percent annual increase in wages for longtime employees who have exceeded the step chart, an increase in the shift differential pay from 30 cents to 50 cents an hour for swing shifts and 50 cents to $1 for graveyard shifts.

A 1 percent increase in the base wage over two years would be implemented across the board in fiscal years 2015 and 2016, costing the borough an additional $14,200 per year.  

The contract would also include a change in leave policy in which employees would accrue less leave, but its use would be more flexible. Under the old agreement, employees accrued personal leave, sick leave and annual leave. Under the new agreement, all leave would be “personal.”

For example, employees working for the borough from zero to three years accrued 30 days of leave annually under the old contract. Under the new one, they would only accrue 20.

“The negotiating teams believe this agreement does a good job of balancing the borough’s current and projected fiscal constraints with the need to stay competitive with wages and benefits offered in other public and private sector jobs in Southeastern Alaska,” Stuart said in the press release.

The borough’s negotiating team consisted of Stuart, Mayor Stephanie Scott, manager Mark Earnest, public facilities director Carlos Jimenez, clerk Julie Cozzi and assembly member Joanne Waterman.

The union team included Local 71 representative Tom Brice, Cathy Keller, Scott Bradford, Jane Clark, Phil Benner and Jason Rettinger.