- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska labor relations body has found probable cause that Fairbanks didn’t bargain fairly with its police officers and dispatchers over a labor contract.

The Alaska Labor Relations Agency’s finding triggers a hearing before its six-member board, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (https://bit.ly/1KDcofi ) reported. A date for the hearing hasn’t been set.

The agency was considering the question of whether it’s fair for the Fairbanks City Council to back out of a partially approved labor contract.

The conflict dates to November, when city council members had second thoughts about a proposed contract that would have increased the city’s health insurance payments and dropped police hours from 40 to 36 hours per week without decreasing salaries. The council approved the contract in August, but it later voted to reconsider because of concerns the cost of the contract would be higher than predicted. A new council unanimously rejected the contract after elections in October.

That act amounted to backing out on an agreed-to contract, an unfair and illegal practice in the eyes of the Public Safety Employees Association, the labor union of 800 Alaska law enforcement officers.

“It would be like going to a bank and negotiating a contract to buy a house, and you agree to what the interest rate is and you close, and then the bank comes back and says, ‘We’re going to charge 10 percent more,’ ” said Jake Metcalfe, the association’s executive director.

This was the first time the union has filed a labor relations complaint since 2010, Metcalfe said.

City attorney Paul Ewers disagreed with Metcalfe’s bank analogy.

The agreements that negotiators sign off on are called tentative agreements for a reason, he said. “It’s not final until it’s final,” Ewers said.

Everything is tentatively agreed to until it’s finally approved and ratified by the city council and the union membership, he said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com


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