Local 71 members ratify contract, await budget decision

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Members of Public Employees Local 71 have ratified a new labor contract their leaders negotiated with the state in January.

The union represents about 1,500 highway maintenance and building workers, as well as food service, custodial and other workers.

Business Manager Don Valesko said members approved the contract by ''a good margin'' but would not say what the margin was. About 45 percent of eligible members voted, Valesko said, and the votes were counted Tuesday.

The three-year contract provides $1,200 lump-sum payments to members July 31. The contract calls for a 2 percent pay raise in July 2001, a 3 percent raise in July 2002 and increased state contributions to health benefits.

The Legislature will have to approve funding for the raises. The Knowles administration is asking for $13.8 million in general fund spending to pay for raises negotiated with a dozen employee unions and for most employees not covered by union contracts.

The Local 71 contract would cost $2.2 million the first year.

Department of Administration Commissioner Bob Poe said in the next few weeks he will be speaking to business groups around the state, trying to convince leaders of the need for the raises, so legislators will have support from their constituents to fund the contracts.

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