PETERSBURG, AK The two sides have a disagreement over which Petersburg Municipal Employees Association workers will be eligible to strike if contract talks remain stalled. The Alaska Labor Relations Agency announced late last week that it has scheduled a hearing for the matter on Wednesday April 13th in Petersburg.<br />
State law specifically prohibits strikes by so called class 1 workers which include hospital, police, fire protection and jail staffers.&nbsp; Instead, if mediated contract negotiations fail, the city has to settle the disputes with those class 1 employees through a process called interest arbitration. That&rsquo;s where a judge hears the case and makes a legally-binding decision on the contract. <br />
The city rejected a union request to go to binding arbitration for all employees.<br />
The PMEA maintains there are more class 1 workers in the collective bargaining unit than the city does. That would mean more union members could have their contract settled through arbitration instead of striking. So, late last year, the union petitioned the Alaska Labor Relations Board to settle that disagreement. Union officials expect to have a strike vote once that&rsquo;s settled. Only workers who are allowed to strike can vote on a strike. <br />
The roughly 70 union members are still working under the terms of their old contract, which expired nearly a year ago last March. Negotiations started last February.&nbsp; The city originally called for cuts to wages and personal time off while the union wanted cost of living and step increases.&nbsp; Talks broke down in March when the city declined the union's request for a mediator. The union filed a complaint of unfair labor practices with the state but withdrew it after the city agreed to mediation. The two sides met again last July with a federal mediator present, but could not reach an agreement. That session was the last face-to-face negotiation between the two sides.&nbsp; The city eventually offered a contract with no changes to wages or benefits but the union rejected it.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />
According to the Alaska Labor Relations Agency, the April strike-class hearing will be open to the public.