By Leigh Armstrong
The state ferry system is back in service, with the first ship docking in Skagway on Aug. 6 after the Inlandboatmen’s Union and state negotiators settled on a new three-year contract Aug. 2, ending the strike that started July 24.
Ferries began running their Southeast routes again on Aug. 4 as the boats, which had been tied up in Juneau and Ketchikan, were quickly readied for service.
The workers struck over wages and health insurance benefits. The strike was the first for the ferry system since 1977.
During the strike, private transportation companies did what they could to help alleviate the burden on travelers. Alaska Seaplanes and the Haines Fast Ferry both offered extra stops in Skagway during the strike, and Harris Air, which doesn’t normally come to Skagway, provided flights between Skagway and Juneau.
Initially, the IBU had asked for a 9 percent pay increase over three years, but settled for 3 percent spread over the next two years.
Because of the strike, the state issued more than $3.2 million in refunds for 8,300 canceled passenger fares and 2,300 vehicle tickets, Alaska Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon told reporters Aug. 2.