Nine years ago, when the Anchorage Assembly laid out for the administration its policy guidelines and direction for the city’s collective bargaining and contract negotiations, it was a different world.
Republican Dan Sullivan was mayor and the Assembly was, well, a trifle more conservative about most things.
Comparing the 2010 policy resolution to one offered last month is eye-opening.
In the 2010 directive, the Assembly set the length of collective bargaining agreements to no longer than three years. In a Nov. 19 Assembly meeting, Assembly Chairman Rivera, and members Meg Zaletel and Forrest Dunbar, offered a new resolution lengthening that to five years because “longer-term collective bargaining agreements provide budgetary stability and avoid the time and expense of negotiating shorter-term agreements.”
In 2010, the Assembly said:
“The average annual increase in cost to the Municipality for wages over the life of the contract shall not exceed the annual average of the previous five years Anchorage Consumer Prices Indices.”
Simple enough, but last month’s resolution before our more liberal Assembly said:
“Increases in compensation shall take into account economic feasibility, workload, productivity, the cost of living as measured by the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for Urban Alaska published by the United States Department of Labor, the parties’ bargaining history, relevant market comparisons in the public sector and relevant market.”
While the Assembly nine years ago advised negotiators, “Employees must share in a larger percentage of the cost of employee benefits,” it last month took a much softer line, saying, “The Municipality and employees should share in the cost of providing health care.”
The Assembly in 2010 said, “Service recognition/longevity compensation programs are to be eliminated, and, “Work rules, supplemental pay programs and all other processes that result in costly processes and procedures with little or no true added value are to be eliminated.”
Today’s Assembly went along with dumping costly and useless work rules, but then added, ‘Collective bargaining agreements shall have wage and benefit structures designed to minimize unnecessary employee turnover and its costs to the municipality.”
In normalspeak, that sounds a lot like “give them what they want.”
How the city approaches contract negotiations is vitally important as something like 56 percent of its annual general government operations budget goes to workers’ wages and benefits. This resolution has little to nothing to say about seriously reining in labor costs.
In adopted, the current Assembly resolution would lengthen the duration of labor contracts, weasel-word how contract increases would be figured and abandon the notion of employees sharing a “larger percentage” of benefit costs, opting, instead, for “should share” in health care costs.
Who says public employee unions have no clout?