Cuts to state jobs prompt union outcry

The largest state employees’ union isn’t happy with some of the cuts in Gov. Bill Walker’s budget. In a class action grievance filed Tuesday, the Alaska State Employees Association said the governor overlooked a crucial detail in its contract agreement  — that could wind up costing the state more.

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Jim Duncan, the Executive Director of Alaska State Employees Association, said he’s received worried calls from union members — particularly those who work for the Department of Transportation in construction design.

The governor’s budget outlines cutting 76 of those positions in 2018, and up to 300 total the year after.

“Our job as a union it to be sure that their rights are protected,” Duncan said. “And to be sure that if something should happen to them, as far as their job disappearing, that it’s been well thought out and we’ve done everything to protect it.”

Duncan said what the governor is proposing is not well thought out. He said there’s no indication that eliminating the Department of Transportation jobs could save the state money; private contractors could increase the price to do business over time.

“And the bottom line should be it’s not just to move money from the public to the private sector. But it should be to reduce costs to bring about efficiencies,” Duncan said. “They haven’t evaluated that at all.”

In a statement from his office the governor reiterated that reducing the size of government is how he intends to tackle the more than $3 billion dollar budget deficit.

But if those jobs are privatized, Duncan said, there’s no guarantee they would remain in Alaska. And he thinks the cuts violate the union’s contract. He said the state is required to give the positions another look with a feasibility study that compares the cost and obstacles of shifting the jobs into the private sector.

“The budget still has to go through many, many hearings,” Leslie Ridle said.

Ridle is the deputy commissioner at the state’s department of administration. She said the governor’s budget still has a ways to go before being finalized.

“So it’s just the first step. We still have time to do a feasibility study before any contracting out is actually done,” Ridle said.

But Jim Duncan said that’s not part of the deal.

“I’ll wait and see if they’re going to do a feasibility study, if they’re going to chose an independent third party, that’s exactly what we’re asking for,” Duncan said. “But still, it’s a contract violation to do it after the decision is made.”

The legislative session starts on January 17. Duncan said the union plans to move forward its class action grievance.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this storymisstated the date the Alaska Legislature will convene. The legislative session starts Jan. 17, not Jan. 19.