Fairbanks tussles with police union over labor contract

At its meeting last Monday, the Fairbanks City Council voted to challenge a recent ruling by the Alaska Labor Relations Agency. The agency says the city inappropriately reversed its approval of labor contract.

The Fairbanks City Council originally ratified a contract with the Public Safety Employees Association. Then later suspended its rules to reject the contract. The Alaska Labor Relations Agency said that was unfair labor practice.

City Attorney Paul Ewers filed an appeal in superior court two weeks ago.

Last night the council said told Ewers to proceed with the appeal. The council clearly felt the contract’s 10 percent pay hike and cut in hours was too pricey. Councilman and former city mayor Jerry Cleworth also warned there are hidden costs associated with the contract, costs the General Fund couldn’t support.

“If we start relying on those funds to fund day-to-day costs of the city, then we’re going to start spiraling down very rapidly because those funds will be exhausted.”

Mayor Eberhart told the council going to court would hike the costs further if the city lost. He says the litigation further degrades morale in the ranks of city police.

“We’ve got to make this an attractive department to get people to come to work here, because they’re leaving. If they’re demoralized they don’t like the way they’ve been treated.”

But his arguments didn’t prevail, the council not only unanimously voted to go to court.

In other business, after a flurry of budget cuts, the council did vote for next year’s operating and capital budgets. Also, Mayor Eberhart says he’s considering a review of police procedures in the case of the so-called Fairbanks Four.