Alaska ferry workers authorize strike if negotiations fail

Fast ferry Fairweather docked in Auke Bay. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Fast ferry Fairweather docked in Auke Bay. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Alaska Marine Highway workers have authorized a strike, if the union and state can’t agree on a new contract.

The Inlandboatman’s Union of the Pacific could call for workers to strike within the next month.

More than 600 ferry workers statewide are represented by the union. Their current contract expires on June 30, but the state and IBU have been at impasse over several issues, primarily cost of living adjustments. The state wants to reduce the COLA for new workers to close the gap between revenue and ferry operation costs. The union has said it would concede to no pay raises for two years, but wants to preserve the current cost of living adjustments for future workers.

With no agreement on the horizon, the union called for a strike authorization vote as a sign of solidarity and bargaining power. Union representatives said in April they hoped to get 80 percent of workers to support it. In a press release Tuesday, the IBU said 99 percent of workers voted to call a strike if bargaining remains stalled.

The state and union plan to meet June 10 for another round of negotiations.