FAIRBANKS — Recently unionized supervisory employees of the Fairbanks North Star Borough told the assembly during its Thursday-night meeting that ongoing labor negotiations have created a “toxic” work environment.
The assembly was considering an ordinance that would have authorized the borough administration to make its last and final offer to the 56-member union if current mediation fails to break an impasse, a move that employees said created a hostile
On the news the mediation, which began Thursday and was scheduled to continue today, has been productive and that the two parties have agreed to continue in a second round in late November, the assembly unanimously voted to postpone a vote on the ordinance.
Employees covered by the union, which organized under Alaska State Employees Association, said the ordinance set a bad tone in the workplace, leading them to believe the borough wasn’t going to the negotiating table in good faith.
Renee Van Nort testified, saying there’s a hostile atmosphere between the employees and administration.
“It has felt to us that we’re being bullied and badmouthed. It’s feeling toxic in this environment,” she said. “It’s caused tremendous tension and low morale.”
Hopkins said it was never the intention to create a hostile environment, but said hard feelings can be the nature of negotiations. He said he was optimistic about mediation efforts.
The assembly expressed considerable relief about mediation moving forward.
“I’m very glad that the circumstances were such that we could withdraw it,” he said. “I know that it could feel that it was intended to pressure the bargaining process, but I know that it wasn’t intended.”
The Alaska State Employees Association Business Manager Jim Duncan said he was pleased with the borough’s action and said it will allow negotiations to continue as intended.
“This is the way the process should work and the assembly took the proper action,” he said after the vote. “We’ve got some more work to do, but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to reach an agreement at the end of mediation.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.