Negotiations Wednesday, January 31st, and Thursday, February 1st, 2024.
During these two days, we met in Anchorage in person. This was the first in-person session that had occurred in the last two negotiation cycles. It was a pleasant change, getting to greet the other side face to face. We believe it changes the dynamic and makes negotiating a more personal experience.
The state fulfilled some of the union's information requests Tuesday afternoon, and SU Negotiators are reviewing the data to craft meaningful proposals.
The state negotiating team asked us if we had a wage proposal. However, article 24 covers so many factors that we told them we needed to discuss some of the article's points before we could get to wages. These covered a few aspects of step placements, merit anniversary/pay increment dates, and others where there are current disputes or areas where the language is unclear.
SU and the State discussed multiple matters where language within the current agreement either does not clearly address a situation or has resulted in a dispute. These conversations were fruitful. The state presented four individual articles (8, 10, 21, and 38) and one package proposal of four more articles (5, 6, 17, and 32) for consideration.
The second day began with an overview of the Health Benefits Evaluation Committee and AlaskaCare funding, provided by the Division of Retirement and Benefits and several HBEC members, discussing the health plan and cost-saving measures. The history of the plan and differences between union-provided health trusts and the plan were discussed. We know this is an important area for members, and we took sufficient time to discuss our concerns with the State.
SU proposed changes to article 38 and proposed Articles 5, 6, 17 and 32 as a package with book (existing) language.
The SU team discussed better ways to manage advanced step placement for new hires, specifically allowing Division Directors to have final approval vs. the head of DOPLR. We feel that this would allow managers to hire better candidates and empower Division Directors who have a broader knowledge of their workplace to make decisions.
SU Negotiators spent a large part of the afternoon of day two discussing Notice of Pay Problems, presenting individual stories as almost everyone on the team has either had NOPP issues or has had to respond to them. We know that the problem does not lie with the SU members who work in those areas nor the CEA members struggling to keep up with low staffing, high turnover, and an antiquated paper-based system that needed an IT upgrade 15 years ago. We discussed with the state that we are open to assisting the State with solutions.
The team finished up by beginning the discussion of wages and disparity between the various bargaining groups. The team gave examples of how this affects turnover and the selection of new supervisors. We intend to provide much more information to the State at the next session as we continue on the topic.
We will keep everyone updated after each negotiation session.