Monday, May 20, 2013
Fairbanks City Council Delays Vote on Police Contract
The Fairbanks City Council voted Monday to delay the vote on a solution to a contract dispute between the city of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks Police Department.
FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks City Council voted Monday to delay the vote on a solution to a contract dispute between the city of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks Police Department.
At issue are a pay raise and health benefit contribution increase for Public Safety Employees Association Local 803 members, who are still working under the terms of a 2008 agreement.
The City Council has proposed a modified version of an arbitrator’s proposal. If accepted by the council, the city would pay a 5 percent increase to base wages, retroactive to January 1, 2011. The original arbitrator’s award called for the wage increase to be retroactive to 2009.
In addition, the city’s contribution to health insurance benefits would increase by $50, also retroactive to January 1, 2011.
The modified proposal was sponsored by Mayor Jerry Cleworth and council members Emily Bratcher, Chad Roberts and Vivian Stiver.
The PSEA had participated in collective bargaining and negotiations with the city for three years after they were unable to reach agreement on a new contract.
An independent, nonpartisan arbitrator was selected by the two sides in October 2010, per state law, which requires binding arbitration in such cases.
The arbitrator reached a decision in January 2011, recommending a 6 percent base-pay increase, retroactive to January 1, 2011, with an increase of between 1.5 percent and 3.5 percent for 2012 and 2013. A one-time $150 increase in the city’s contribution toward public safety employees’ health benefit fees was also recommended, and the city would pay an additional $50 per year starting January 2012 and another $50 in 2013.
The city currently pays $850 toward benefits, while employees pay $675.
The council’s counterproposal would fund the wage and benefit increases for 2011 only. Any future increases would have to be negotiated separately.
The city currently has a budget surplus, but Mayor Cleworth said he was leery of using this to fund the contract because the city can’t be sure this surplus will exist in the future.
Public safety employees are Class One employees who do not have the option to strike if contract negotiations break down.
“Mayor Cleworth wants the police to uphold the law but he doesn’t want to abide by the law,” said Jake Metcalfe, executive director of the PSEA.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7590.