Alaska Marine Highway officers’ union rejects tentative contract agreement

State ferry Fairweather

Crew members from the state ferry Fairweather get ready to tie up to the dock in Sitka. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

The licensed captains and officers who navigate Alaska Marine Highway System vessels have rejected a tentative contract agreement with the state.


The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots voted down the proposal by mail-in ballot. Union representative Ron Bressette says the votes were counted last week.

“I’ve been a member of the Masters, Mates and Pilots since 1992, worked out on the ferries myself and up until now we’ve never rejected a tentative agreement. So this is a first for me,” Bressette says.

He declined to say whether the vote was close or if an overwhelming majority of members were opposed to the deal. MMP represents about 100 ferry workers, including captains, chief, second and third mates, and pilots.

Union leaders had recommended approval of the deal, reached June 29, a day before the workers’ old contract expired. Bressette says many members were frustrated that the agreement included no pay increase in the first year, a 1 percent raise in 2015 and a 2 percent increase in 2016. Second mates would also get a 3 percent raise in year two.

“They feel that the wage increases that we negotiated were not adequate,” he says.

Bressette hopes to meet with state officials Friday to discuss what to do next. Options range from negotiating a new agreement to binding arbitration. He won’t rule out members going on strike.

“We’re making the preliminary steps to be ready to go on strike, you know, start the planning process and that. That option is available to us,” he says.

Department of Administration spokesman Andy Mills says the state’s negotiating team is looking forward to hearing union members’ concerns and figuring out the best way forward.

“Obviously when both sides are having a negotiation at a table, I don’t think either side takes anything completely off the table,” Mills says. “But I don’t actually think we’re that far apart. It’s about polling the members and finding out what are those differences.”

The other two unions representing Alaska ferry workers also have tentative agreements pending. The Inland Boatmen’s Union of the Pacific will tally its members’ votes Aug. 26. The Marine Engineers Beneficial Association has not yet mailed ballots to its members.