The Ketchikan City Council voted unanimously Thursday to implement a compensation plan update that will increase salaries for some city and Ketchikan Public Utilities employees.
The motion also called for the city to reopen contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to talk about journeyman lineman retention and retirement benefits.
Some IBEW representatives and city employees spoke during public comment, and expressed concern about the study.
Jay Rhodes of IBEW said comments submitted by city employees weren’t taken into consideration. He said the recommendations also aren’t consistent for all the positions below the market median.
“The majority of the recommended wage increases are for management and unrepresented positions,” he said. “I urge the city council to implement the compensation study in a fair and equitable manner.”
Liz Bruce said numbers can be manipulated, depending on how you use them. She questioned whether consulting firm Ralph Andersen and Associates conducted a truly independent study.
“Make no mistake, they are working for the city manager and the council, not the employees,” she said. “They meet client objectives.”
One concern is that positions that had been recommended for as much as a 20-percent raise in a 2014 compensation study by the same firm are now recommended for a 2.6-percent increase.
Building and Maintenance Supervisor Steve Hofstedt said it appears this updated study linked departments throughout the city to come up with new numbers.
“It’s a kind of a cop-out to be able to link us and then dummy down these guys to 2.6 percent increase,” he said. “The numbers have been consistent over the last five years at 20 percent. I’m not really happy about the outcome.”
Hofstedt said the point of the study was to bring wages up to market median, and 2.6 percent for his maintenance techs will not accomplish that goal.
Other speakers argued that compensation in regard to pensions and benefits also is lacking.
The council went into an executive session before voting on the compensation study. The closed-door session was for the council to discuss how implementation of the study affected the city and KPU’s contract with IBEW.
When the council came back into open session, they had the unanimous vote to implement the study and reopen talks with IBEW.
Council Member Janalee Gage said the plan isn’t perfect, but it’s a start.
Council Member Mark Flora agreed, adding that “the next step in this is gonna be figuring out how we pay for it so that we can keep the cost of living as affordable as possible for everybody else.”
The cost of implementing the compensation plan’s recommendations is estimated at about $1.85 million.