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Title: City of Unalaska and Public Safety Employees Associations
Date: June 29, 1999
Arbitrator: Sandra Gangle
Citation: 1999 NAC 119

BEFORE SANDRA SMITH GANGLE, ARBITRATOR

In the Matter of the Interest Arbitration                        )

between                                                                       )                  

CITY OF UNALASKA,                                             )    OPINION

AAA Case No. 75 L 300 00013 99                            )           AND                                                                                                                            Employer,                                                                    )       AWARD

                        and                                                       ) 

PUBLIC SAFETY EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION,   )

Bargaining Representative.                                            )

_________________________________________  )

 Hearings Conducted:                            March 30 and 31, 1999

Representing the Employer:                   William F. Mede and Dennis J. Efta
                                                             OWENS & TURNER, P.C.
                                                             Attorneys at Law
                                                            1500 West 33rd Avenue, Suite 200
                                                             Anchorage, AK  99503-3502

Representing the Association:                James A. Gasper
                                                            JERMAIN, DUNNAGAN & OWENS, P.C.
                                                            Attorneys at Law
                                                            3000 A Street, Suite 300
                                                            Anchorage, AK  99503

Arbitrator:                                            Sandra Smith Gangle                                                             SANDRA SMITH GANGLE, P.C.
                                                            117 Commercial Street NE, Suite 310
                                                            Salem, OR  97301

Date of Decision:                                  June 29, 1999

                                                                BACKGROUND

            This matter comes before the arbitrator pursuant to the Alaska Public Employment Relations Act, AS 23.40.070 et. seq. (PERA) and the mutual selection of the parties. 

            The Public Safety Employees Association (hereafter “PSEA” or “The Association”) is the exclusive bargaining representative of City personnel employed with the Department of Public Safety.  Pursuant to AS 23.40.200(b), the bargaining unit that is represented by PSEA does not have a right to strike.  Upon reaching impasse during bargaining, and having been unable to resolve the deadlock through mediation, the bargaining unit and the City are required to submit their unresolved issues to arbitration by an impartial arbitrator.

            The parties, having commenced bargaining in April 1998 for a successor collective bargaining agreement to their 1996-98 agreement, and having been unable to reach agreement on all the terms of their agreement, mutually selected Sandra Smith Gangle, Attorney at Law, 117 Commercial St. NE, Suite 310, Salem, Oregon 97301, through selection procedures of the American Arbitration Association, as the labor arbitrator who would conduct a hearing and render a decision in the matter.[1] 

            A hearing was conducted on March 30 and 31, 1999 in a Conference Room of the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska, Alaska.  The parties were thoroughly and competently represented by their respective attorneys throughout the hearing.  The City of Unalaska (hereafter “The City” or “The Employer” was represented by William F. Mede and Dennis J. Efta, Attorneys at Law, of the Anchorage law firm of Owens & Turner, P.C.  The Public Safety Officers Association (hereafter “The Association” or “PSEA”) was represented by James A.Gasper, Attorney at Law, of the Anchorage law firm of Jermain, Dunnagan & Owens, P.C.

        The parties were each afforded a full and fair opportunity to present testimony and documentary evidence in support of their respective positions.   All witnesses who appeared at the hearing were sworn and were subject to cross-examination by the opposing party.  The Association’s witnesses were Keith Perrin, Matthew Betzen, Judy Collins and Emil Berikoff. The City’s witnesses were Scott Seabury, Grant Yutrzenka, John Voss and Glenn Herbst.  

            The arbitrator tape-recorded the testimony of all witnesses as an adjunct to her personal notes.  It was agreed and understood that the arbitrator's tapes were not an official record of the hearing.  They are the arbitrator's private property and are not subject to subpoena by any party or organization.

            After the close of the oral hearing, the parties jointly led the arbitrator on a guided motor tour of Unalaska and Dutch Harbor, so that she would have an opportunity to view the city’s facilities, including streets, public buildings, residences, port installations and commercial/ industrial buildings.  Also, the parties submitted to the arbitrator a statement of the issues that had been resolved in bargaining.  Those issues are not before the arbitrator in this proceeding.  

            Written briefs of final argument were submitted by both parties following the hearing.  By agreement, the parties postmarked their briefs on May 24, 1999.  The arbitrator officially closed the hearing on June 1, 1999, upon receipt of both briefs. 

            The arbitrator has considered all of the testimony and evidence that the parties offered at the hearing.  She has weighed all the evidence, in the context of the criteria that she deemed to be relevant, as discussed infra, and has considered the argument of both parties in reaching her findings and conclusions.

                                          RELEVANT STATUTORY PROVISIONS

AS 23.40.070.  Declaration of policy.

* * * * *

The legislature declares that it is the public policy of the state to promote harmonious and cooperative relations between government and its employees and to protect the public by assuring effective and orderly operations of government.  These policies are to be effectuated by

            (1)  recognizing the right of public employees to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining;

            (2)  requiring public employers to negotiate with and enter into written agreements with employee organizations on matters of wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment;

            (3)  maintaining merit-system principles among public employees.

 

AS Sec. 23.40.200.  Classes of public employees; arbitration.

 

            (a)  For purposes of this section, public employees are employed to perform services in one of the three following classes:

            (1)  those services which may not be given up for even the shortest period of time;

* * * * *

            (b)  The class in (a)(1) of this section is composed of police and fire protection employees, jail, prison, and other correctional institution employees, and hospital employees.  Employees in this class may not engage in strikes.  * * * * *  If an impasse or deadlock is reached in collective bargaining between the public employer and employees in this class, and mediation has been utilized without resolving the deadlock, the parties shall submit to arbitration to be carried out under AS 09.43.030.

                                                                        JX No. 2[2]

                                                    STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

            The stipulated facts of this matter are set forth on the following six pages:

            Based on the evidence offered at the hearing, the arbitrator has found the following additional facts to be true:

            1.         Unalaska has been the number one port in the entire United States since 1992 for seafood volume and value.  Its fishing industry accounts for 52% of the commercial fish value that is caught in the state of Alaska.  See CX 23, p. ii.

            2.         The primary revenue source for the City of Unalaska is the commercial fishing industry.   In FY 1998,[3] Unalaska received approximately $2.64 million of its general fund revenues from raw fish sales tax and $6 million from the State of Alaska, as the City’s share of state fish taxes.  Together, those taxes accounted for 44.6 percent of the City’s total general fund revenues of $19,422,752.  The remainder of the City’s income was from a sales and use tax, a bed tax, real estate tax, interest on investments and miscellaneous sources, such as permits and licenses.  See CX 27.

            3.         The major varieties of fish that are harvested and processed in and around Unalaska, in descending order of economic importance, are pollack, crab and cod.  Other varieties include halibut, turbot, mackeral and rockfish.  The pollack industry generates by far the most revenue, though its profitability has been decreasing in recent years.

            4.         The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) is the federal regulatory agency that sets policies and establishes regulations governing fishing in the Bering Sea.  On a yearly basis, NPFMC establishes “quotas” for the total allowable catch, that is, the amount of fish, by type, that can be harvested, and determines the specific time periods and locations in the Bering Sea during which and from which harvesting can occur. 

            5.         According to testimony by Grant Yutrzenka, who serves on the advisory panel to NPFMC and has experience in the fisheries industry, NPFMC regulators decreased the quota of pollack that could be harvested in the Bering Sea from 1.3 million metric tons in 1996 to 992,000 metric tons in 1999.  Likewise, the allowable quota of Opilio crab was decreased from 188 million pounds in 1997 to 50 million pounds in 1999.

            6.         The bio-mass (or total available supply) of pollack has been gradually decreasing since 1994. 

            7.         The American Fisheries Act (AFA) governs the allocation of the processing of fish, after it is harvested in the Bering Sea, between on-shore processors and factory-trawlers located at sea.  Until 1999, the ratio was 65% factory-trawlers to 35% on-shore processors.  As of January 1 of this year, the ratio became 50-50.  Also, the number of factory trawlers has been reduced from 35 to about 24. 

            8.         Historically, factory-trawlers have spent considerable amounts of time in Unalaska during fishing season.  Their crews have patronized retail and service businesses in the local community.    

            9.         Fishing cooperatives are now allowed to operate in the Bering Sea.  Therefore, the competitive pace of fishing that used to exist during certain seasons has been slowed down and fishing is spread out over a greater period of time.

            10.       The Stellar sea lion, which feeds on pollack, has been added to the Endangered Species List because its numbers have been decreasing.  An environmentalist group has filed a lawsuit against the agency that oversees NPFMC, seeking to shut down the pollack fishery entirely, in order to preserve the food supply for Stellar sea lions and prevent further dwindling of their numbers.  The outcome of the litigation is unknown at this time.

            11.       The Bureau of Labor Statistics generates only one Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in the state of Alaska.  That CPI-U is produced for Anchorage.  In 1997, the CPI-U Anchorage increased 1.5 percent.  See CX 13.  In 1998, it increased 1.1 percent.  See CX 14.

            12.       According to a 1997 study by the Alaska Cooperative Extension of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, the cost of food for a family of four in Unalaska was 149 percent of the same food in Anchorage.  Ass AX 5, p.6.  Also, the cost of electricity in Unalaska was more than triple the cost of similar usage in Anchorage.  Id.

            13.       The population of Unalaska increases to approximately 15,000 persons during the fishing season because non-permanent residents come to work on the fishing vessels and factory trawlers and in the on-shore processing plants and related businesses.

            14.       The influx of transient workers tends to place considerable demands on public safety officers.  The workers live in close temporary quarters and usually do not have families with them.  Therefore, many of them engage in rowdy behaviors.

            15.       Transportation for residents of Unalaska is not convenient.  Access between Unalaska and the mainland of Alaska is primarily by air. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry visits once a month between April and September only.  Except for 3.5 miles of streets in downtown Unalaska and the port area, all roads are unpaved on the island. 

            16.       There are no doctors on the island.  Limited health services and emergency care are provided by physicians’ assistants in a local clinic.  Residents must travel by plane to Anchorage for medical/surgical care and for any emergencies that P.A.’s are not trained to handle.  Occasionally, inclement weather conditions impede timely transit for such services.  

            17.       In 1994, the City adopted a Classification Study and Compensation Plan that was prepared at the City’s request by Peat Marwick.  The Study sought to organize the City’s various employee positions by grouping them according to comparable levels of performance and rates of pay.  The Compensation Plan established a wage table with fifteen different Grades.  Eight pay steps were established in each Grade, according to the Study.  The Plan did not provide any guidance as to how an employee would advance from one step to the next within a specific Grade.

            18.       According to the Peat Marwick Study, PSEA bargaining-unit classifications were allocated to the following Grades:

                        Classification                                                  Grade

                        Animal Control Officer                                      6

                        Firefighter I                                                       8

                        Communication Officer                                      9

                        Correctional Officer                                           9

                        Firefighter II                                                      9

                        Firefighter III                                                    10

                        Public Safety Officer                                         10

                        Police Sergeant                                                 12

 

            19.       Other classifications of City employees were placed in the same Grades as the PSEA members that are referenced in Fact No. 16.  Some of those classifications, and the Grades to which they were assigned, are as follows:

                        Classification                                                  Grade

                        Light Equipment Operator                                 6

                        Harbor Officer                                                  8

                        Heavy Equipment Operator                               8

                        Power Plant Operator                                       9

                        Roads Field Supervisor                                     9

                        Water/Wastewater Operator 2                          9

                        Maintenance Crew Chief                                   10

                        Water/Wastewater Operator 3                          10

                        Utility Lineman Chief                                         12

                        Harbormaster                                                    12

        20.       The City has undertaken to build a new library and museum, at a cost of $6.5 million.  Also, the City has purchased a quarry at a cost of $2 million and intends to build a softball field there.

STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES

            During bargaining the parties tentatively agreed to retain the language of the following sections of their 1996-98 collective bargaining agreement:  Preamble; Articles 1-10; Section 12.1(A)(B)(D)(E)(G)(J)(K) and (L); Section 12.2(C) and (D); Section 12.3; Section 12.4; Section 12.5(B) and (C); Section 12.7; Section 12.8(A); Section 12.9; Sections 13.1 through 13.4; Articles 14 and 15; and Articles 17 through 29.   Immediately prior to the arbitration hearing, the parties reached tentative agreement on a number of additional issues.  See Appendix 1. 

            The issues that remain unresolved involve wages and other economic benefits.  The Association has proposed a number of changes in the following sections of the contract:

                        Article 12
   
                                 Section 12.6      Injury Leave

                        Article 16         Rates of Pay/Classification

                                    Section 16.1    Position & Wages

                                    Section 16.2    Overtime rates

                                    Section 16.3    Shift Differential rates

                                    Section 16.4    Differential Shift definition

                                    Section 16.5    FTO differential rates

                                     See JX 15 (Copy attached as Appendix 2)

 

            The Association seeks to bring its members into equitable wage status with other City employees whose positions were classified and graded similarly to bargaining-unit positions under the 1994 Peat Marwick study, but whose wages have increased at a greater rate than those of bargaining-unit members.  Also, the Association seeks to implement an eight-step wage-progression plan similar to the matrix that was included in the Peat Marwick Compensation Plan.  More specifics regarding the Association proposal will be discussed elsewhere in this report.

            The City wishes to retain the current language of Sections 12.6, 16.2, 16.3, 16.4 or 16.5.  Regarding the rates of pay in Section 16.1, the City proposes a three-stage matrix (showing Minimum, Mid-point, and Maximum levels within each classification), similar to the matrix it plans to implement for Title 3 employees. Compare JX 12 and JX 16.  The City would grant a three percent (3%) across-the-board wage increase retroactive to July 1, 1998, then subsequent increases on July 1, 1999 and July 1, 2000 that would equal whatever increases are granted to Title 3 employees, unless those increases are less than 3%, in which case the Union could call for a wage reopener regarding wages.  See JX 16 (Copy attached as Appendix 3).

RELEVANT CRITERIA FOR AWARD

            The Alaska Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) does not prescribe the criteria that an arbitrator should use in making an award in a public sector interest arbitration case.[4]  Also, the PERA does not give guidance to the arbitrator as to the relative weight that should be given to the various factors,[5] in those situations where the parties agree on the criteria that the arbitrator should apply in evaluating their proposals.[6]  Therefore, the arbitrator has the discretion to decide what criteria are appropriate in this case and how the various factors, and the evidence supporting them, should be weighed. 

            The parties have stipulated that the arbitrator is not bound to accept either party’s last, best offer.  They have expressly conferred on the arbitrator the authority to accept either party’s position on each disputed issue, or to fashion an intermediate version in her award.[7]

I.  The City’s Proposed Criteria and Analysis:

            The City has proposed that the Arbitrator apply the following criteria: (1) salary comparability, both internal (comparing the existing and proposed wages for the Association with the wages of other employees of the City) and external (making a similar comparison with the wages of public safety employees in other comparable jurisdictions);  (2) fiscal responsibility in the face of economic uncertainty[8]; and (3) inflation or other changes in the cost of living in the local community during the term of the contract.   Of these three criteria, the City seems most concerned about being able to meet its financial obligations when revenues from the fishing industry decline substantially.  The City expects such declines to be imminent and dramatic.  

            A.  City’s Position Regarding Internal Equity:      The City bargains with two other bargaining units and a group of previously unrepresented employees, known as “Title 3” employees[9].  The City points out that almost all Unalaska City employes, represented and unrepresented alike, have received annual increases of three percent in recent years.  None of the City’s currently-negotiated agreements with unions representing other employees call for raises in excess of three percent.   Therefore, in the City’s view, internal equity will be maintained if its offer to PSEA is accepted, with a three- percent wage increase in the first year and wage increases commensurate with those of the other City employee groups in the second and third years. 

            The City acknowledges that some City employees, whose positions were graded similarly to PSEA bargaining-unit positions by the 1994 Peat Marwick Study, are now paid substantially more than the PSEA employees in the same grades are paid.  The City regrets that mistakes have been made, by which overly generous pay increases have been granted to some positions.  The City does not believe it is appropriate, however, to grant large wage increases (as much as 30-40 percent in some instances) to PSEA employees as a remedy for the past errors.  Two wrongs would not make a right, in the City’s view. 

            B.  City’s Position Regarding External Comparability:     The City contends that certain cities in Alaska which participated in a 1998 wage-and-benefits comparison study under the auspices of the Alaska Municipal League (AML) qualify as appropriate external comparables to Unalaska.  See CX 6.  The City demonstrated that the starting wage of public safety employees of Unalaska is higher that the starting wage of police officers in all of the cities listed in the AML Survey.  See CX 9.  The maximum wage paid to PSEA members in Unalaska is exceeded in only two of the cities listed in the survey, Anchorage and Nome.  CX 8.   Some of the comparable communities have a cost of living that is as high as, if not higher than, that of Unalaska, contends the City, and some of them are located in remote areas and on islands, like Unalaska.  Since Unalaska compares favorably to its external comparators, says the City, there is no need for salary increases beyond the three percent that the City has offered in its wage proposal.

            C.   City’s Position Regarding Fiscal Responsibility:      The City argues, most emphatically, that the arbitrator should give serious consideration to the fiscal responsibility issue. The City believes it is facing an imminent loss of tax revenues, which will severely restrict its ability to balance all of its fiscal responsibilities over the term of the parties’ contract.  Certain changes have been occurring and are likely to continue to occur in the commercial fishing industry, which will adversely affect the City’s tax revenues.

            Changes in federal legislation and regulations are restricting the quantities of fish that can be harvested and processed, as well as the locations and timing of fishing and the methods of processing the fish harvest.  Unknown biological conditions appear to be affecting the fish biomass in the Bering Sea.  Finally, a class-action lawsuit, which seeks to protect the Stellar sea lions by preserving their food supply, threatens the continued viability of the pollack-fishing industry.  In the face of all these concerns, the City must be prudent.  It must take appropriate action to limit its expenditures, in order to be able to meet its obligations when the anticipated revenue losses materialize, argues the City.

            D.  City’s Position Regarding Inflation/Cost of Living:       The annual wage increases granted to public safety employees in Unalaska in recent years have out-paced the Anchorage CPI-U, says the City.  In 1995, the Anchorage CPI-U increased 2.9%, but Unalaska paid its public safety employees a 5% wage increase.  In 1996, the CPI-U increase was 2.7%, but the Unalaska PSEA increase was 5%.  And in 1997, the CPI-U increase was only 1.5%, but the PSEA increase was 3%. 

            This history shows the City has not only kept pace with inflation, but has been generous in granting wage increases that are nearly double the increases in the cost of living to PSEA-represented employees each year.  Based on that history, the City contends its offer of a 3% wage increase for 1998 is more than fair, since the 1998 increase in the Anchorage CPI-U is only 1.5 percent.

II.  The Association’s Proposed Criteria and Priorities:

            A. PSEA Position Regarding Internal Equity    The Association denies that there is internal equity between the wage structure of PSEA-represented employees and that of other City employees at the present time.  The City has not abided by the commitment it made in 1994, when it adopted the Peat-Marwick Classification Study and Compensation Plan, to keep the wages of similarly-graded employees relatively equal, in order to compensate them for their relatively comparable service to the City.   Therefore, the equity that was envisioned by the Plan has been lost.  The wages of  PSEA-represented employees have fallen behind those of  their colleagues whose positions were allocated to the same Grades in the Plan. The disparity is particularly acute at the mid-point and maximum ranges within each Grade, says the Association, because there has been no clear step system in place by which officers could progress within their established pay ranges.   An across-the-board three percent increase to bargaining-unit members, as proposed by the City, would only perpetuate and further increase the inequity that already exists. 

            In order to equalize the pay of similarly-situated employees of the City, and adequately compensate them for their increased skills and experience, a clearly-defined step system needs to be implemented for public safety bargaining-unit employees.  Also, wage increases greater than three percent are needed and, in some categories, substantial wage increases are warranted, in order to achieve the equity that was envisioned by the Peat Marwick Study.  The proposal, which the Association has assembled, would allow for the following increases in the various bargaining-unit classifications, to be effective July 1, 1998:   Animal Control Officer (8%); Firefighter (15%); Communications Officer (8%); Corrections Officer (12%); Public Safety Officer (15%); Public Safety Sergeant (15%).

            B.     PSEA Position Regarding External Comparability:    The Association contends that Unalaska is a unique island community, with particular economic difficulties and other hardships which are not experienced by any other community in Alaska.  Specifically, Unalaska employees have unusual hardships in obtaining services, such as medical care and consumer shopping, that are readily available in communities that might otherwise be used as external comparables.  None of the cities that are listed in the 1998 AML Study that is relied upon by the City are comparable to Unalaska, says the Association, when comparing wage and benefit packages of public safety employees. 

            When comparing the wages of public safety employees, the most appropriate external comparator to Unalaska is the Alaska State Troopers, argues the Association.  That group’s collective bargaining agreement contains a ten-step wage progression grid and provides for a geographic-based wage differential which compensates troopers who are assigned to outlying districts like Unalaska, based on the unique hardship factors that are present there.

            The most appropriate external comparator, when comparing corrections employees, is the strike-prohibited group within the State of Alaska Correctional Officers Bargaining Unit, says the Association.  That group’s current interim letter of agreement provides for a six-step wage schedule, with four subsequent longevity increments.  As in the state troopers barbaining agreement, there is a geographic-based wage differential for officers assigned to remote areas.

            C:        PSEA Position Regarding Merit Principles:            The Association asks the arbitrator to focus on employee merit principles, as that factor is espoused in the PERA, especially AS Sec. 23.40.070(3), and elsewhere in Alaska law.  For example, in Alaska Public Employees Assn. V. State, 831 P.2d 1245, 1249 (Alaska 1992), the Alaska Supreme Court reasoned that the merit principle, which is preserved in Article III, section 6, of the state constitution, applies to “regular integrated salary programs based on the nature of the work performed”.  See also AS 29.20.410. 

            According to the Association, PSEA members improve the quality of their work performance each year, because they gain important experience in police procedures, tactics and strategies over time.  Such improvements should be rewarded by movement from step to step on the wage scale. 

            A step system is traditional in police departments, says the Association.  As an example, the Association points to the Alaska State Troopers agreement and the Correctional Officers interim agreement with the State of Alaska.  See, for example, AX 3 and AX 9[10]. 

            Such progression was also incorporated in the Peat Marwick Compensation Plan, which was expressly adopted by the City and was referenced in the parties’ 1994-96 and 1996-98 agreements,  See, for example, the parties 1996-98 agreement, JX 3, at page 9, and Exhibit A attached thereto.  The system has not been adequately implemented, however, says the Association, and now many bargaining-unit members are unaware of how their wage rate is actually computed.  This uncertainty needs to be corrected.

            D.  PSEA Position Regarding Inflation/Cost of Living:      The Association contends that the Anchorage CPI-U is not an appropriate basis on which to evaluate the cost of living factor for residents of Unalaska.  The cost of living was 49% higher in Unalaska than in Anchorage in 1996.  Also, the difficulties that Unalaska residents face are caused by some highly unique practical factors, which are very difficult to quantify, such as inaccessibility to medical/dental care, difficulty in obtaining consumer goods and a dearth of paved roads. 

            The most appropriate way to evaluate and compensate the hardship conditions that bargaining-unit members endure in meeting their ordinary living needs is to look at the wage differential schemes that are provided for in the State Police and Corrections Officers agreements.  The Association asks that arbitrator to consider those schemes, which provide a seven-step wage differential for officers assigned to Unalaska, as evidence on the cost-of-living issue.

            E.         PSEA Position Regarding the City’s Fiscal Responsibility: 

            The Association does not believe that the City’s concern regarding fiscal responsibility is realistic or even legitimate to raise at this point.  The Association believes that any anticipated decline in the City’s tax revenue stream is speculative at best.  There is no certainty that the legislative and regulatory changes in the fisheries industry are going to lead to reduced revenues during the term of the parties’ new agreement.  Likewise, there is no scientific proof that the pollack biomass will continue to decrease. Nor is there any certainty that the plaintiffs will prevail in the litigation over preserving the Stellar sea lions.  The City is merely expressing an irrational fear of disaster when they say they must plan ahead for reductions in tax income during the term of the parties’ new contract. 

            The City has admitted that it has the ability to pay the wage increases that are sought by the Association.  That is all that matters in this proceeding, says the Association.  Also, there is a healthy surplus of funds available in the City’s budget to fund its proposal, even in the event that an economic downturn does occur. 

            The Association points to the fact that the City has committed itself to fund a number of costly capital improvements, such as a Library, Museum and softball field.  As a result of those commitments, the return on the City’s investments has decreased substantially over the past year.  While the improvements may enhance the quality of life in Unalaska, they should not be paid for at the expense of public safety officers, whose wages have been falling behind those of their similarly-graded colleagues in City employment and need to be caught up. 

            It is essential that wage equity be reestablished for the public-safety bargaining unit, through appropriate wage increases and implementation of a wage-scale grid.  Then, appropriate increases should be granted during the term of the contract to compensate bargaining-unit members appropriately for their meritorious service and increases in the cost-of-living.

 

III.    The Arbitrator’s Selected Criteria and Priorities

            Having reviewed the evidence in the record and the briefs of the parties, the arbitrator is persuaded that the following criteria and priorities shall be applied in this matter:

            A.        Internal Equity:      The need to establish and maintain internal comparability/equity between the PSEA bargaining unit and other units of City employees, both represented and unrepresented, in accordance with the City’s promise when it adopted the Peat Marwick Classification Study and Compensation Plan in 1994, is of paramount importance;

            B.         External Comparison:     The need to consider the compensation scheme of public safety officers and corrections officers in other union-represented bargaining units, who work under similar working conditions elsewhere in Alaska, is of secondary importance;

            C.        Probable Future Decline in Ability to Pay:   The City’s concern regarding its continued ability to meet its various fiscal obligations during the three-year term of the parties’ agreement, particularly its obligation to provide for the interests and welfare of the public during a period of declining revenues, is of tertiary, but nonetheless realistic, significance. 

DISCUSSION

I.          WAGES: Article 16.1:           Clearly, the most significant issue in this proceeding, and the one which the arbitrator will discuss first, is Article 16.1 Wages.  The arbitrator will analyze and apply the criteria that are set forth above to the proposals of both parties on the wage issue.

            A.        Internal Equity:         

            When determining wage issues, interest arbitrators seek to determine the prevailing wage rate in the particular industry or area, as that would be the standard that the parties would most likely apply themselves in collective bargaining. See, e.g., Volz and Goggin, How Arbitration Works, supra, at 1106-14.   Arbitrators strive to reduce or eliminate any inequalities in compensation that are found to exist within a particular employment setting, if there are no real differences between the skills, abilities or types/difficulties of tasks that are performed by the various employees and would justify the wage differential.  See, e.g., Arbitrator Morris in 93 LA 348, 353 and other cases cited in footnote 18 at page 1107, How Arbitration Works, supra.

              The arbitrator is persuaded by the evidence in this case that the City made a commitment in 1994, when it adopted the Peat Marwick Study and Compensation Plan, to maintain pay equity between similarly-graded employees working in various classifications and departments for the City.  The Compensation Plan anticipated that a wage progression of eight steps would be provided within each of the fifteen grades (originally called “ranges”) to which the various employee classifications were assigned by Peat Marwick, based upon the comparability of their skills and performance.  See JX 11.  The differential between steps within each grade or range was five percent.  Id.  The City apparently intended, therefore, that an employee at step eight of a given grade would receive the maximum pay rate for that grade, or forty percent more in wages than an entry-level employee in the same grade would receive.

            When PSEA and the City negotiated their first and second collective bargaining agreements, in 1995 and 1997 respectively, they expressly relied on the 1994 Classification Study and Compensation Plan as the basis on which the pay ranges for bargaining-unit members would be determined.  See JX 3,4.  Specifically, Article 16.1 of each agreement provided:

            The Compensation and Classification Plan adopted by the Unalaska City Council through Resolution 94-61 on June 14, 1994, attached as Exhibit A, shall constitute the negotiated wage structure.  The base salary structure consists of fifteen salary grades and eight steps within each grade. . . .

                                                                                    See, e.g. JX 3, p. 15.

During the four years that their labor contracts have been in place, however, the parties have failed to implement the wage progression of bargaining-unit members from step to step, as envisioned in the Plan and in their labor agreements.  It appears the parties never expressly defined how and when movement from one step to another in the matrix would occur.  As a result, the basis on which the actual wage rates have been computed for many of the bargaining-unit members over the past few years has been somewhat of a mystery to the Association

            During the same four-year period, the wages of other City employees, whose classifications had been determined equivalent to PSEA bargaining-unit members’ classifications under the Peat Marwick Plan, have climbed to markedly higher levels than the wages of their public-safety colleagues.  Evidence offered at the hearing shows the following to be a comparison of the wages that were paid to similarly- classified employees of the City as of July 1, 1998.  The first column refers to bargaining-unit classifications; the second to non bargaining-unit personnel.[11]

Classification                          Grade Wage Rate                   Classification    Grade   Wage Rate

Animal Control Officer              6          $21.13                         Lt. Equip. Operator      6   $25.42

Firefighter I                               8          $19.70                         Heavy Equip. Op.         8   $29.23

Harbor Officer                          8          $23.38[12]

Communication Officer             9          $19.82-25.30               Power Plant Op. 2        9   $29.23

Correctional Officer                  9          $19.82-23.80               Water/Wastewtr Op.2  9   $27.36

Firefighter II                             9          $ unknown

Public Safety Officer                10        $21.85-29.29               Maintenance Crew Chf 10   $31.34

Police Sergeant                        12        $29.29-33.90               Utility Lineman Chf.       12     $35.12

 Harbor Master                        12     $32.03

                                                                                                See CX 3; JX 7, p.12; JX 5, p.16

 

The chart shows that most of the employees outside the PSEA bargaining unit were paid more than the maximum wage rate that was paid to PSEA unit members, except police sergeants.  Other evidence in the record shows that the City is aware these wage gaps should be corrected.[13]

            If the City’s offer to PSEA were accepted (that is, a three percent across-the-board wage increase retroactive to July 1, 1998), the wage rates payable to PSEA bargaining-unit members would remain considerably lower than the wages of their colleagues in the same grades in other departments.  This pattern would not only be unfair to the bargaining-unit members themselves, but it would potentially be detrimental to the City, as it would encourage trained public-safety officers to leave their positions and seek employment elsewhere.

            The Association demonstrated at the hearing that this “exodus” effect may already be occurring in the City.  Witness Emil Berikoff, a former firefighter who earned $19.70 per hour when he was in the bargaining unit, testified that he now earns $6.00 more per hour in his new job as a light equipment operator with the City.  Mr. Berikoff’s previous assignment was in Grade 8.  His current assignment, which is in the Public Works Department, falls within Grade 6, but is compensated at the higher rate. 

            If this trend continues, there will be a serious morale problem within the bargaining unit.  There could also ultimately be an adverse effect on the City’s ability to attract qualified public-safety personnel to fill vacant positions. 

            The arbitrator infers from the evidence that there has not been any movement laterally on the wage scale for PSEA-represented employees, even though such lateral movement was clearly anticipated by the wage grid incorporated in their labor agreements.  Apparently the parties neglected to agree on the standard by which such lateral movement could occur.  Bargaining-unit members’ wages have only increased each year by the negotiated percentage increases, which were intended to cover cost-of-living increases. There have not been any wage increases based on merit or increased professional training or experience.  As a result, wages for bargaining-unit members have gradually fallen behind the wages of employees in other departments.

            Ordinarily, lateral movement on a wage grid reflects advances in training, experience, or other indicia of improved skills and abilities.  Wage grids are commonly seen in contracts involving teachers, for instance.  In those contracts, lateral movement is granted with each successful year of teaching experience or the achievement of an advanced degree. 

            Evidence shows that State Police and State Corrections Officers in Alaska also have such grids and that lateral movement on those grids occurs each year that an officer is employed with the agency.  Witness Keith Perrin testified that such movement is common in police departments and that it is intended to reward officers for the increased skill and ability that they manifest as a result of completing a successful year on the force.  Other employment classifications, such as journeymen mechanics or heavy equipment operators, do not demonstrate such improvements in skills and abilities over time, he said.  That evidence was not rebutted by the City.

            Based on the foregoing analysis, the arbitrator has concluded that a greater increase is needed in PSEA wages than the simple across-the-board increase that the City has offered, as of July 1, 1998, with further across-the-board increases in 1999 and 2000.  Also, a different approach needs to be taken, in order to correct the internal inequity which exists in bargaining-unit wages and reestablish the pay equity system that was envisioned under the Peat Marwick study.  The City’s approach would only cause public-safety officers’ wages to fall farther and farther behind the wages of other City employees and would further aggravate the internal inequities which have occurred within the unit itself.

            In order to accomplish the stated goals, different wage increases will have to be crafted in each of the classifications within the bargaining unit.  This is necessary because the degree of inequity that exists is greater in some classifications than in others.  

            Once the degree of correction is established in the base starting wage of each classification, a reasonable method must be established by which bargaining-unit employees can progress from one step to the next higher within their grades.  This is important, so that employees can be adequately compensated for the increases in their skill level that derive from additional experience and meritorious service each year.

            Under the Association’s proposal, wage increases would be implemented as follows for classifications in the unit, as of July 1, 1998, in order to bring the bargaining-unit members’ wages more in line with those of their similarly-graded colleagues: Animal Control Officer (8%); Firefighter I (15%); Communications Officer (8%); Corrections Officer (12%); Public Safety Officer (15%); and Public Safety Sergeant (15%).   The City argues that those increases are excessive and unreasonable.  The arbitrator does not agree, however.  If the proposal is awarded, the resulting wages of many bargaining-unit members will still be less than the wages of their non-bargaining-unit colleagues, though the gap will be lessened considerably from what it is now.  The comparison, which the arbitrator finds to be reasonable, is demonstrated by the chart on the following page:

Classification                          Grade Wage Rate                   Classification    Grade   Wage Rate

Animal Control Officer                  6          $15.97-19.65[14] Lt. Equip. Operator      6   $25.42

Firefighter I                                   8          $20.67-25.42        Heavy Equip. Op.         8   $29.23

Harbor Officer                              8               $23.38             Communication Officer  9    $21.40-26.33

Power Plant Op. 2                        9               $29.23

Correctional Officer                      9          $22.20-27.31        Water/Wastewtr Op.2   9      $27.36

Public Safety Officer                    10        $25.13-30.90          Maintenance Crew Chf 10     $31.34 

Police Sergeant                            12        $29.65-36.47          Utility Lineman Chf.      12      $35.12

Harbor Master                             12              $32.03

 

            The Association proposes that the eight-step grid or matrix structure be retained in its contract proposal and suggests that each employee’s wage level move automatically from one step to the next higher after each year of meritorious service.  Movement would occur on the employee’s anniversary date.  See JX 15, attached hereto as Appendix 2; testimony of Keith Perrin.  The Association’s proposal is reasonable.  However, as the City pointed out, if movement from one step to the next were scheduled on each employee’s anniversary date, it would be administratively difficult to keep up with the succession of pay raises for all the bargaining-unit members during a given fiscal year.  Therefore, the arbitrator proposes that all merit increases be granted on July 1 of each year, the same date that percentage cost-of-living increases are granted.   NOTE 1 of the Association’s proposal should therefore provide as follows: 

            NOTE 1:          Each Step on the wage grid represents one year of meritorious service with the Department in the job classification.  Movement from Step 1 to Step 2 shall occur on July 1 of the year following the employee’s first anniversary, provided the employee achieves a satisfactory evaluation; successive movements shall occur on July 1 of each year, provided the employee has achieved satisfactory evaluation(s) during the preceeding year.  

            With that adjustment, the City’s need for administrative efficiency is met.  The Association’s stated goal of rewarding its members for increased experience and meritorious service would also be met.  Since the step increase is intended to reward merit, it would not be automatic, but would be based on satisfactory evaluations.  Presumably, an unsatisfactory evaluation would justify management’s withholding movement to the next step.[15]

            The Association also proposes, in NOTE 2, that an employee’s wage be frozen if the employee transfers to another job in the bargaining unit, for which the wage would otherwise be lower than the previous level of earnings.  Witness Keith Perrin testified that the intent of the proposal was to prevent involuntary transfers from lowering an employee’s wages, where the transfer was not for disciplinary reasons. 

            The Arbitrator finds that the proposal is reasonable.[16]  It is consistent with similar protections that are contained in the current Ports and Public Works Agreements.  See JX 5, Article 20; JX 7, Article XVI.  However, the wording should be changed to express the stated intent that only involuntary, non-disciplinary transfers would be covered, as follows:

            NOTE 2:          If an employee is involuntarily transferred to a different position in the bargaining unit, for non-disciplinary reasons, the employee’s wages in the new position shall be frozen at the pre-transfer wage rate, or placed at the appropriate step in the schedule, whichever is higher.

            Next, the Association recommends a Longevity provision in Section 16.1.1.  Under the provision, an employee would earn a 1.5 % premium on the employee’s base rate for each five years of service beyond Step 8.  The request is reasonable, as it will encourage experienced employees to remain in their positions and will ensure stability in the department.

            Finally, the Association has proposed a wage increase of three percent plus the applicable percentage increase in the CPI-U Anchorage on July 1, 1999 and again on July 1, 2000.  The Association offers no justification for this request.  The City, however, has offered increases equal to those granted to Title 3 employees on each of the renewal dates, unless the title 3 increases are less than three percent, in which case a wage reopener would be allowed.

            The evidence shows that IUOE Local 302 has agreed to accept three-percent increases in FY 1999 and 2000, respectively, under their current contract.  See JX 7, p. 12.  Also, the ILWU Local 200, unit 201, has accepted a pay increase of three percent, or the equivalent of Title 3 employees’ increase, whichever is higher, in 1999.  See JX 5, p. 16.  Therefore, internal equity would be maintained if a three percent increase were granted each year, with increases above that figure only in the event Title 3 employees’ increases exceed three percent.[17]  The arbitrator discourages wage reopeners in 1999 and 2000, as recommended by the City, for two reasons.  First, it will already be July 1, 1999, when this award is available to the parties; and, secondly, the parties need finality in order to heal their bargaining relationship.

            B.        External Equity:         The arbitrator is persuaded that the most appropriate comparables to Unalaska’s public safety bargaining unit are Alaska’s State Troopers and Corrections Employees.  Not only did the Association witnesses support that conclusion, but at least one witness for the City acknowledged that Unalaska is unique among cities in Alaska and that other cities in Alaska are only similar in terms of location and population.

            The City proposed as comparables a number of cities that responded to a statewide salary and benefits survey (the AML study) in August 1998.  CX 6.  Some of those cities were, like Unalaska, remote or island-based communities (i.e., Wrangell, Kodiak).  Therefore, at first blush, they appeared to provide reasonable bases for comparing wages and benefits. 

            The starting wage rate for Unalaska’s  public safety employees was higher than the starting rate for similar employees in any of the cities that responded to the AML survey.  Also, Unalaska’s maximum rate was surpassed in only two cities, Anchorage and Nome. See CX 6.

            However, Scott Seabury, the Acting City Manager of Unalaska, acknowledged on cross-examination that none of the cities in the study is really comparable to Unalaska.  He pointed out, for instance, that Wrangell, which is an island community of which he served as city manager until recently, was not subject to PERA.  Also, he said there are no unions representing employees in a number of other remote cities.  Most significantly, Unalaska residents have to deal with considerably more hardships than residents anywhere else.  For instance, there are no doctors in Unalaska.  Local residents must fly to Anchorage for ordinary medical and surgical services.  However, In Wrangell there is a hospital and four doctors.  Also transportation, particularly for access to the mainland, is far more limited and expensive for Unalaska residents than it is for residents of Petersburg, another island community in Alaska.  In fact, when asked specifically whether any city in Alaska would be a fair comparator to Unalaska, Witness Seabury responded that there is none, except on superficial grounds like remoteness and population.

            By contrast, the record shows that State Troopers and State Corrections Officers are both represented in collective bargaining.  Both groups provide services throughout Alaska, in large and small communities, in places near major cities like Anchorage as well as in remote locations, including Unalaska, that present significant hardships to workers and residents. 

            Both of those groups’ contracts provide wage grids that are similar to the PSEA proposal in this case.  According to Keith Perrin, who until recently was a State Trooper himself, the grids are intended to allow for adequate wage progression to compensate officers for their increased training and experience as time goes by.  Also, both contracts allow for a seven-step wage differential (26.3%), over Anchorage wages, to allow for the cost-of-living difference that exists for employees assigned to Unalaska. 

            Under the State Patrol grid, a trooper assigned to Unalaska in 1998 would have earned between $29.40 and $41.86 per hour. A police sergeant would have earned between $36.08 and $48.49 per hour. See AX 3.  The State Corrections grid shows that a CO I assigned to Unalaska would have earned between $20.05 and $26.97 per hour, and a COII between $22.71 and $31.09.  See AX 10.[18]

            The PSEA proposal seeks wages for public safety officers that are somewhat lower than the amounts referenced for State Patrol officers and State CO’s.  Public Safety officers seek a range from $25.13-$30.90, Sergeants from $29.65 to $36.47, and Corrections Officers from $22.20 to $27.31.[19]  

            Therefore, by applying the principle of external comparison to the facts of this matter, the arbitrator finds that the Association proposal is reasonable, with the modifications that are set forth in Section A herein.

            C.        The City’s Fiscal Responsibility:

            The arbitrator has acknowledged in the Statement of Facts that certain changes are occurring in the fishing industry in Unalaska.  See pp. 6-7 supra.  There is certainly no question that the reduced quotas, the changes in fishing/processing practices, the unexplained reduction in the biomass of available pollack and the threat of a pending lawsuit over preservation of the Stellar sea lion are all legitimate issues of concern for the fiscal managers of the City of Unalaska.  The City’s concern for maintaining prudent fiscal responsibility in the face of possible declining revenues is not purely speculative, as the Association argues, but is realistic.   

            Each of the referenced issues, taken separately, would be cause for some concern that there would be a reduction in tax revenues from now on, as a direct or indirect consequence of a lower quantity of fish likely being harvested and processed in and near Unalaska.  Since all of these things are occurring simultaneously, however, the City must carefully monitor its ability to continue to fund all of its services at the level it has provided throughout the 1990’s. 

            Unalaska has enjoyed a healthy, indeed “booming”, economy, largely because of the active pollack-fishing and processing industry over the past decade.  The arbitrator viewed first-hand the assortment of public buildings (i.e., City Hall, school, police station, etc.) and private businesses (i.e., shopping center, hotel, etc.) that have been constructed during the 1990’s, as well as the downtown streets that the townspeople are so proud to have finally paved.  The arbitrator is persuaded that wages and benefits of employees in both the public and private sectors have been excellent during much of the decade as well, as a consequence of the healthy economy.  Unfortunately, this atmosphere of prosperity is likely to change, due to of the adverse conditions that are occurring in the fisheries industry.

            The degree to which the City’s revenues will be adversely affected is not yet fully known, however, and the situation may not be as devastating as the City fears.  Acting City Manager Scott Seabury testified that, although all indicators show that a decline in revenue is likely to occur, the City’s income could remain at status quo level.

            Also, other indicators show that the City is not as worried about its economic future as it claimed at the hearing.  The City recently showed optimism in allocating $6.5 million for the construction of a museum and library and in spending $2 million to purchase a quarry for a public softball field.  Indeed, the most recent City Budget document shows that expenditures of $4.8 million (or 19.2 percent of the general fund balance) were transferred to pre-planned capital improvements in fiscal year 1998 and that most unreserved funds were allocated to other capital expenditures, leaving only $877,374 in unreserved and undesignated funds in the general fund.  See AX 4; CX 23, p. v.  If the City were truly concerned about being able to meet its on-going obligation to pay its employees adequately for the services they provide, it is curious that so much money was spent on capital improvements. 

            Also, it seems that the City’s actual income from sales tax, raw fish sales tax, shared fisheries business tax, shared fisheries resource landing tax and miscellaneous investments was considerably higher in FY 1998 than had been budgeted in that year.  As a result, the total revenue for the City was more than $2 million higher than anticipated.  See CX 23, p. 39.

            The arbitrator is not persuaded, therefore, that a significant loss of tax revenues is imminent.  Also, the City has not made an inability to pay argument in this proceeding and it does not appear that the City will be unable to pay the wages that the arbitrator has found to be reasonable herein, upon application of the principles of internal and external equity.  However, the arbitrator agrees that the City must be watchful of its budget from now on and must avoid unusual expenditures, in order to remain solvent.  The fiscal responsibility issue is realistic and will be relevant to the arbitrator’s analysis of the remaining issues that are in dispute in this case.

II.        INJURY LEAVE: Article 12.6:        

            The Association proposes a change in Article 12.6, which would provide as follows:

                        12.6   Injury Leave.

                                    A.        A leave of absence for up to twelve (12) months for a member who has suffered an illness or injury in the line of duty which would normally qualify them for Workers Compensation.  The twelve (12) month period begins the date injury leave under this provision is first utilized.  In such instances the member may be assigned work at the discretion of the Director of Public Safety providing such work assignment does not adversely affect the nature of the illness or injury.  Should it be determined the member will not be eligible to return to full duty and applies for retirement, and retirement is granted prior to the twelve months expiration of administrative leave, the City’s obligation under this provision shall then be nullified.  It is the intent of this provision that a member would not be eligible to receive lost wage compensation from Workers Compensation for that period of time covered by Injury Leave.  However, in the event the member does receive lost wage compensation for that period of time covered by Injury leave, such payment will be submitted to the City.

 

            The City proposes retaining current language in the injury leave provision, as follows:

                        12.6   Injury Leave.

                        A.        Employees shall be granted workers compensation leave to the extent required by the Alaska Workers Compensation Act.

            The Association contends it is seeking the change, in order to avoid wage inequities which it claims exist in the Workers Compensation system.  The Association also seeks to establish parity with the State Patrol officers’ contract language on the issue. 

            Witness Keith Perrin testified that public safety employees are more likely to incur on-the-job injuries than other City employees, because of the dangerous and physically demanding tasks that police and corrections officers and firefighters must perform.  Yet, when they are injured, they are only entitled to receive 80 percent of their regular wages under Workers Compensation law.   Under the proposal, the injured worker would turn over his or her Workers Compensation check to the City and the City would give the worker his or her regular paycheck. 

            The City points out that the parties have already agreed to a liberal personal leave provision in their agreement, including the right to cash out unused personal leave.  Also, the parties have tentatively agreed to increase the leave donation provision in their renewal agreement, by which they can donate unused personal leave to their colleagues.  Compare JX 3, p.8 with JX 17.  Therefore, bargaining unit members could use their personal leave options to increase their income while on Workers Compensation. 

            The City also contends that the change requested by the Association would make the City an insurer for its employees.  This would not be in keeping with the other bargaining units and would therefore create internal inequity on that issue.  Such inequity is not shown to be justified, argues the City, especially in view of the economic uncertainty that the City is facing.

            The arbitrator is not persuaded by the evidence that public safety employees incur more on-the-job injuries than other City workers, such as heavy or light equipment operators.  Also, the Association did not demonstrate that there had been any problems in Unalaska with the interaction between the injury leave and personal leave provisions of the PSEA contract.  Since the current language mirrors the injury leave provisions in the other collective bargaining agreements that the City has negotiated with its workers, there does not seem to be a need to change the provision in the PSEA agreement at this time.  Therefore, the arbitrator will grant the City’s proposal on this issue.

III.       OVERTIME RATES: Article 16.2

            The Association seeks to change the current overtime provision to allow for the payment of double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of twelve continuous hours.  The proposal would also permit a shift supervisor, rather than the Director of Public Safety, to assign overtime.[20] 

            The Association acknowledges that its proposal applies mostly to corrections officers and contends that it is justified by safety concerns.  After an officer has worked for twelve continuous hours, he or she is tired and not as able to make quick decisions and deal with crises, especially in situations that call for the use of deadly force, as during the first twelve hours of work.  The Association says its real intent, however, in asking for this provision is to provide a financial disincentive to the City for assigning lengthy periods of overtime, thereby putting officers at risk of injury.

            The City does not dispute the Association’s argument regarding the hazards of working more than twelve continuous hours.  The City argues, however, that the only occasions on which it has assigned more than twelve hours to bargaining unit employees were rare times when replacements were unavailable, due to vacations or illness.  Since the City is required to staff the jail facility around the clock, it sometimes must assign a corrections officer to work more than twelve hours.

            Witness Judy Collins, a corrections officer, testified that she usually works alone in her post at the jail.  She sometimes is involved in stressful situations, such as when she serves on a “suicide watch” and must check on the suicidal inmate every fifteen minutes.  She said she has experienced hives on such occasions.  On cross-examination, however, she acknowledged that she does not work a lot of overtime, only about four hours per month. 

                        The arbitrator finds that the Association’s proposal appears at first blush to be reasonable.  However, the evidence does not show that there has been a problem with overtime. Therefore, the arbitrator sees no need to grant the Association’s proposal on this issue.

IV.      SHIFT DIFFERENTIAL RATES AND DEFINITION:  Sections 16.3 and 16.4

          The Association contends it wishes to memorialize current practice as to the time distinctions between day shift, evening shift and night shift, based upon the starting times of each shift.  Also, a new “relief shift” designation is defined, as when an employee is assigned to “alternating shifts” (1-2 days on each of the three shifts) consecutively within a particular week.  The Association asks for a fifteen percent (15%) differential for any week in which an employee works on such a relief shift.

         The City contends that relief shift assignments are an ongoing and necessary, responsibility of all corrections officers.  The jail is a 24-hour operation.  The employees rotate through their shift assignments, changing shifts every two months.   An employee usually has to serve on a relief shift only once every ten months.  The assignment is simply a part of the job duty of corrections officers.  The burden is shared equally among all officers in the classification.

       Also, there is already a shift differential in place to compensate employees when they work the evening and night assignments.     Employees earn a shift differential of 5 percent for evening shift and 10 percent for night shift.  To provide for a special shift differential for working on relief shift is unwarranted and excessive, says the City.

       The evidence generally supports the City’s argument.  Corrections Officer Judy Collins testified that she has had to work the relief shift three times over the past ten months.  However, that was an unusual occurrence, she said, and was caused by illness or vacation schedules of her co-workers.  The arbitrator does not find that a special relief shift differential is warranted at this time. 

V.     FIELD TRAINING OFFICER (FTO) DIFFERENTIAL RATE:  Section 16.5:

         The Association contends that the current contract language on FTO differential pay is inadequate to compensate many officers who perform training duties for new employees.  The current language allows for the differential of two percent to be payable only to those officers who perform training duties on thirty consecutive days or more.  Many officers assist the regular FTO’s in the training process, however, but they are uncompensated for their extra efforts.

         The City argues that there has been no demonstrated need to change the current thirty-day provision.  The City points out that the Association’s witnesses did not contend that the 30-day requirement, for eligibility for extra pay, had been abused.  Substitute training officers are only asked to assist occasionally, says the City, and they only serve on a brief, temporary basis.  

          The arbitrator agrees that the Association did not present persuasive evidence of a need to

change the current training differential provision.  Indeed, the change which the Association requests is ambiguous, in that it provides for the differential when an employee is “regularly” assigned to perform training duties, but does not define “regularly”.

AWARD

            For the reasons set forth in the preceding analysis and decision, the arbitrator awards as follows:

            (1)        The Association’s proposal regarding Section 16.1 POSITION & WAGES is granted, with modifications to the proposed pay increases that would become effective on July 1, 1999 and July 1, 2000, and, further modifications to NOTE 1 and NOTE 2, as follows:

*Effective July 1, 1999, through June 30, 2000, the above rates shall be increased by 3%, or the rate of increase that is granted to Title 3 employees, whichever is greater.

 

*Effective July 1, 2000, through 2001, the 1999-2000 pay rates shall be increased by 3%, or the rate of increase that is granted to Title 3 employees, whichever is greater.

 

            NOTE 1:          Each Step on the wage grid represents one year of meritorious service with the Department in the job classification.  Movement from Step 1 to Step 2 shall occur on July 1 of the year following the employee’s first anniversary, provided the employee achieves a satisfactory evaluation; successive movements shall occur on July 1 of each year, provided the employee has achieved satisfactory evaluation(s) during the preceeding year.  

            NOTE 2:          If an employee is involuntarily transferred to a different position in the bargaining unit, for non-disciplinary reasons, the employee’s wages in the new position shall be frozen at the pre-transfer wage rate, or placed at the appropriate step in the schedule, whichever is higher.

(2)        The City’s proposals are granted on all the remaining issues that are in dispute in this matter (Articles 12.6, 16.2, 16.3, 16.4 and 16.5); and

(3)        The parties shall share equally in the payment of the arbitrator’s fees and expenses.

            DATED this 29th day of June, 1999.

                                                           ___________________________________

                                                             SANDRA SMITH GANGLE, Arbitrator
   
                                                          117 Commercial St. NE, Suite 310
                                                             Salem, OR  97301
                                                             Telephone: (503) 585-5070

 

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