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Ferry unions reach contract deal with governor

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 5, 2011 at 10:44 am |
March 5, 2011 10:44 am

Gov. Chris Gregoire called it a “historical” level of sacrifice by ferry unions, who are giving up nearly $7 million in the form of 3 percent pay cuts and $13 million in other savings to the state over the next two years.

But there were few details about those other concessions at a press conference Gregoire held with ferry management and unions Friday. It’s all part of a deal that isn’t sealed until contracts are approved by the union rank-and-file, and Gregoire said she wanted those union members to hear the details before the public.

But she touted a total of $30 million in savings to the state ferry system, between the pay and benefit cuts that leaders of most ferry unions have agreed to and $10 million in cuts Gregoire says she is making to management and administrative overhead. (There are few details, but the cuts are in addition to previous efficiencies, and don’t include the reduction in ferry runs she says are necessary to solve a huge budget gap).

To some degree, both union concessions and management cuts are attempts to head off the changes that some lawmakers want to make in the ferry system.

For example, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, wants a committee to take over the ferry system and prepare it for new management, he says. He blames management for the problems with the ferry system exposed by a KING 5 series.

And Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, wants to treat ferry workers’ unions like other unions in bargaining. She wants to prohibit contracts from being more generous to ferry workers than other public employees on issues like overtime, vacations and travel time.

Haugen said it’s too soon to say whether Friday’s agreement makes her proposals unnecessary; Seaquist praised the unions for their sacrifices but dismissed management changes as a repeat of cuts that had been announced earlier.

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