FAIRBANKS — A contract between the Public Safety Employees Association and the city of Fairbanks was unanimously rejected at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Ordinance 5953, sponsored by Mayor John Eberhart, failed by a 6-0 vote. The PSEA represents 68 police and dispatch personnel.
The contract has been contentious. On Aug. 25, the council voted 4-3 to approve the labor agreement. Then, on Sept. 8, the council voted to reconsider the contract, nullifying their previous decision.
What comes next is uncertain.
After Monday’s vote, PSEA Executive Director Jake Metcalfe said he plans on filing unfair labor practices with the Department of Labor. Metcalfe called it “bad faith bargaining.”
City Attorney Paul Ewers said he expects a return to negotiations.
The following changes would have been implemented under the three-year contract:
• A 10 percent increase to wages, which included a one-time retroactive payment of $1,750 per member
• An increase in monthly health contributions of $250 per member, from $1040 to $1290
• An increase in paid leave for members of more than 10 years, from 240 to 300 hours per year
• A 10 percent decrease in weekly work hours, from 40 to 36 hours per week.
Chief concerns among council members were reduced staffing and potential increases in overtime — both because of the 10 percent reduction in work hours.
During public comment, Metcalfe gave a presentation comparing Juneau and Fairbanks Police Department salaries between 2008 and 2013. He said in that time frame, FPD salaries rose only 6.5 percent compared to JPD’s 17 percent. Juneau and Fairbanks have similar-size police departments.
“Your employees are underpaid, seriously underpaid,” Metcalfe said.
Former City Mayor and recently elected Councilman Jerry Cleworth gave lengthy objections to the contract.
He said under the agreement, package increases would have ranged from 15.64 percent for junior members to 20.25 percent for senior members, compared to recent 1.4 percent to 2.5 percent package increases with the city’s other unions.
“We can’t do the same thing for the other three bargaining units, we can’t come anywhere close to that,” Cleworth said.
Councilman Jim Matherly, who initiated the Sept. 8 request for reconsideration, said he isn’t happy with the lack of a contract. He stated in no way was his reconsideration request politically motivated.
The contract dispute has already resulted in the resignation of Officer Dave Duncan, a nine-year veteran of FPD.
Contact staff writer Robin Wood at 459-7510 or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/FDNMcity.