The nine-day ferry workers strike that froze the Alaska Marine Highway System following over two years of failed contract negotiations between the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific and the state has tentatively ended, according to a Department of Administration press release.
Late Thursday night, both parties reached a tentative agreement for a three-year contract.
"The turning point came as both parties came to understand what was the intent behind some of the requests and where we were coming from as parties,” said Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka.
The greatest areas of compromise in the agreement included health care, contract duration and health care, she said.
“I think this agreement meets the needs of both parties,” Tshibaka said. “It’s a very favorable outcome for both of us. It’s good for employees, good for Alaska, and that’s what really matters.”
State officials were told that the union will vote to ratify the new terms no later than Monday, Tshibaka said.
Tshibaka and Department of Transportation Commissioner Joch MacKinnon said that ferry workers can return to work before the contract is ratified by the union. Though, getting the ferries to run will not happen overnight, MacKinnon said during a teleconference with reporters Friday.
MV Tustumena, which is docked in Kodiak, will begin with a Kodiak to Homer run at 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday. The MV Kennicott, which also services The Rock, will set sail on Tuesday with a Ketchikan to Bellingham run.
Before the ferries can run, crew, provisions, fuel and the necessary equipment need to be organized, he said.
As soon as the ferries can run, the vessels will resume the section of their route where they were originally supposed to be according to the ferry schedule, he added.
“We are in the process right now of notifying the people that would be reporting to the ships through our dispatch center,” MacKinnon said.
Calls to the union, which represents around 400 AMHS workers, went unanswered.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, $3.2 million fares were refunded, 8,300 passengers and 2,300 vehicles, MacKinnon said.
Information will be released as soon as reliable information becomes available, DOT officials said.