The Wrangell Assembly voted Tuesday to adopt its last contract offer to unionized municipal employees.
That makes a strike more likely. But a labor representative said no decision has been made.
The 24 union members proposed a $2.50 an hour pay increase in their final proposal. They said that balances out higher health insurance costs.
The borough offered 75 cents an hour.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Finance Director Lee Burgess said that still gives the majority of union members a better deal than they have now.
“Fourteen of the 24 represented positions would, over the next three years, receive more in wages as a result of the modifications made, including to the wage table as well as the 75 cents, than the additional costs that they would pay for health insurance premiums,” he said.
The updated wage table drops the six lowest pay levels, while adding three to the high end. Burgess said that will increase pay for four to six employees now and more later.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Shop Steward Mark Armstrong said the employees are disappointed by the Assembly’s vote. But they’ll meet and talk before deciding whether to strike.
He said he sees the Assembly’s vote as another step in the process that he hopes leads to a resolution acceptable to both sides.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Assembly member David Powell said the ball is in the union’s court.
“From what I understand, the city made the last offer and we’re not going to bid against ourselves. So, the way I look at it is, if you’re not going to come back with a counter-offer, it puts us at an impasse as an Assembly. I don’t know where we can go from here other than what we’re doing right now,” he said.
The vote to adopt the municipality’s contract offer was unanimous. Officials have begun hiring fill-in staff in case of a strike. They’ve also listed services that would be reduced to stopped.
Before the vote, union member Andrew Scambler said some of Wrangell’s municipal employees make less money than their counterparts in other communities. And some of those people might leave town.
“Wrangell’s unionized workers contribute to the prosperity of the community. And I hope that you look at us in our prosperity as an asset to be invested in, rather than as a liability,” he said.
Those workers have been without a contract for three years.
In addition to the 24 union members, the borough has about 35 managers and other employees not in a union.