Negotiations run chilly for public employees in Alaska

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Negotiators for the Alaska Higher Education Crafts and Trades Employees report that their efforts to secure a strong, professional contract for members of Local 6070 have prompted nothing from the chief negotiator but hostility and icy stares across the table.

The AFT local, which represents more than 200 employees at University of Alaska campuses, entered bargaining to find that management was attempting a total rewrite of the existing collective bargaining agreement—and not for the better. Included in the university's original proposal is language that makes it easier to contract out work, impedes workers from communicating with their union representatives, and eliminates any cooperation between the university and the union. The university also is offering salary increases for union workers that typically are less than those for nonrepresented employees. Add to that management's demands for a weaker benefits package, and its refusal to explain why these changes are needed, and you've got a recipe for hostile, acrimonious bargaining—which is precisely what Local 6070 reports after months of talks.

"In my 22 years of employment with the university, with more than half of that time spent as a union representative or officer, I have never seen the university's position so anti-union," says Kevin J. Purcell, first vice president for the Northern Region and a negotiator for Local 6070. "We continue to strive to keep the doors open and the lights on, so it is perplexing to me why the university is taking this stance toward the dedicated employees of Local 6070."

Negotiations resume next month. [Mike Rose]

July 9, 2013