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Fairbanks North Star Borough, managers head to arbitration

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Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 12:06 am

FAIRBANKS — Negotiations between the Fairbanks North Star Borough and its recently unionized managerial employees failed to yield an acceptable contract and both parties are now heading to mediation.

The parties had gone back to the table after the assembly rejected a tentative contract because it included retroactive pay increases for the borough’s 56 managerial employees. 

Because of the impasse, the two parties are scheduled to enter into non-binding third-party mediation on Oct. 25 and 26 in an attempt to break the impasse.

The future route of the negotiations was at issue during the Borough Assembly’s meeting Thursday night. Mayor Luke Hopkins, whose office handles the negotiations, put forward an ordinance that would authorize his office to offer a final offer to the union in the event that mediation fails to break the impasse. 

The offer is the same as the one previously offered minus the retroactive pay. It also has a reworked table of step increases. 

The employee group unionized under the Alaska State Employees Association/American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 52. ASEA business manager Jim Duncan said the ordinance set a bad tone for the upcoming meetings and spoke against advancing the ordinance.

“I believe it’s in bad faith,” he said. “There is nothing that would prohibit the union from conducting a strike authorization vote before the mediation is completed. But we will not. We don’t consider doing that because we don’t consider it being in good faith.”

If the mediation fails, Duncan said the union could decide to strike, but he said it’s the union’s hope to resolve the issue before then.

Hopkins said the ordinance is required in case mediation fails to break the impasse and get the parties back to the negotiating table. It would give him the power to quickly make the final offer and, hopefully, resolve the dispute.

The assembly appeared to side with Hopkins on the issue and approved advancing the ordinance on a

5-3 vote. Assemblymembers Guy Sattley, John Davies and Mike Musick voted no.

The ordinance will now go up for a hearing and vote at the assembly’s next meeting.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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