Ferry union, state of Alaska reach tentative agreement

People hold picket signs at the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry facilities in Juneau during the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific strike on July 25, 2019. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

Negotiators for the state of Alaska and the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific reached a tentative agreement late Thursday night, which could bring an end to Alaska’s ferry strike.

But IBU leaders say they’re waiting for a majority of their 400-odd members to ratify the deal before going back to work.

Alaska state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, said he and his staff did what they could to help facilitate the talks, such as booking meeting rooms, but he was not privy to the details.

Negotiations had stalled after last weekend. Talks with a federal mediator resumed this week after a recess.

The Alaska Department of Administration commissioner has called a press conference scheduled for noon on Friday to brief reporters.

The strike was called last Wednesday by the ferry’s largest union, shutting down the Alaska Marine Highway System. That initially stranded hundreds of people and their vehicles and disrupted the flow of freight and goods.

The IBU has been seeking a three-year contract with 3% raises annually. That’s after two years of wage freezes. The cost of health care premiums and a disparity in pay between Alaska residents and non-residents have also been sticking points.

State officials had alleged some of the union’s initial demands were unlawful and threatened that striking workers could face suspension or termination because the strike was illegal.

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