Legislative leaders raise labor cost concerns

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013
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Republican Rep. Alan Austerman of Kodiak, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee, said the letter's objective was to bring focus to the state government's overall cost of operations.

"That's the whole gist of what we're looking at over the next few years, is how we get total government costs under control," he said Thursday. "We can't just leave one part of the cost out of the picture."

Parnell had no comment on the letter, his spokeswoman said. Nicki Neal, director of the state Division of Personnel and Labor Relations, said she couldn't disclose what has been discussed as part of negotiations.

Jim Duncan, executive director of the Alaska State Employees Association/AFSCME Local 52, said he respects lawmakers' right to express their opinion but said the union negotiates with the administration and is doing so in good faith.

The union is aware of the state's concerns about the budget and personnel costs.

"We are taking that into consideration as we offer proposals and as we consider the state's position," Duncan said. "But we're also aware that in order to deliver services in this state, you have to adequately compensate the employees."

Duncan said he's hopeful the two sides will reach a fair agreement in the next few weeks.

Curtis Thayer, a deputy commissioner of administration, recently told the Senate Finance Committee that the department's bargaining priorities and concerns include "fiscally prudent" cost-of-living increases and reducing the cost of things like "leave liability." He said the unions are aware of this.

Merit increases and pay increments for the general government unit next fiscal year could be about $15 million, but cumulative over three years $105 million, according to Thayer's presentation. Employees can bank leave, and there was a leave liability of $164 million in fiscal year 2012, up from $140 million in 2009, he told the panel.

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Follow Becky Bohrer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/beckybohrerap.

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