Op Ed: Local 71 responds to private company Pioneer Home contract

Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - The business manager and spokesperson for Local 71, the public sector employee union based in Anchorage, has submitted an op-ed piece in response to news that the Pioneer Homes hospitality services will now be handled by a private company, rather than the state.

The following op-ed was submitted to KINY News of the North and other media outlets across Alaska by Local 71 union business manager Jordan Adams:

Alaska enjoys a deep-rooted history of honoring our elders.

The state administration is proposing rate hikes for Pioneer Homes residents making them a profit center would be disrespectful. At the same time—it wants to obliviously outsource jobs at the Pioneer Homes without an appropriate study to find potential hidden costs.

Local 71 is proud to represent the deeply committed, hard-working people who provide food and custodial services to the residents of our Alaska Pioneer Homes, I am regularly reminded that these working people are highly valued by the residents, their families; the health care staff, and those serving on the Advisory Committees and Foundation Boards. We support our Pioneers together. But turning our elders into a profit center—that's just not Alaskan.

That's because the working people of Local 71 care about the quality of the services they provide and subscribe to the EDEN Home philosophy of care, which is committed to 'eliminating loneliness, uselessness, and boredom; and valuing community, empowerment: passion and integrity," which enhances the overall health and well-being of Alaska's Pioneer Home Residents according to the medical community.

The respect and compassion our Local 71 members bring to these great Alaskans is unsurpassed and is widely recognized by our Pioneer Home residents; their families; Advisory Committees, Foundation Boards; vendors, and communities at large. Our members average over 10 years serving our elders, and many have served in their positions for over 20 years. Outsourcing their jobs would punish these public servants for their perfect record. That would be a mistake.

A recent low-bid proposal to provide these services doesn't show the whole picture. By failing to account for the actual costs of outsourcing, the State simply hasn't done its homework. The current state employees are predictable, and all costs are shown up front. The new proposal removes transparency. Change orders, which are expected; may surpass current costs the way the deal has been written, and they likely will. High turnover in the outsourced jobs is expected to raise costs even further.

Employee turnover for the proposed contractor has been more than double that of current Pioneer home employees. Employee Benefit News reports that it costs employers 33 percent of a worker's annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves. That's for just one employee.

The math on a workforce with high turnover, such as the proposing company has already demonstrated, is significantly higher. That means unnecessary increased costs to the state at the expense of our elders, who deserve better. The new proposal would also open the door for worker strikes, job walk-offs and costly grievance options; all of which are disallowed through the current agreement. Associated items still unaccounted for include:

1. PERS costs of retirement-eligible employees leaving state service under new contract.
2. State costs from leave cash-out of those moving to new contract;
3. Any increased utilization of public services by workers whose new benefits are lacking;
4. State oversight transition costs for layoffs, changeover to new contractor, and training;
5. The impact on Pioneer Homes residents;
6. Rate hikes for services once the competition (current contract services provider) has been eliminated creating a monopoly.

Editors Note: KINY News of the North does not endorse the op-ed submitted above and merely presents it as an opposing view to stories previously published on this website.

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