Opinion

What’s unsustainable are WSF labor conracts

Washington State Ferries Chief David Moseley, addressing a community gathering in Port Orchard on Tuesday, acknowledged what he’s been saying since he was appointed to his post in 2008 — that the system is financially unsustainable and has been for years.

Moseley insists the only way to move WSF in the general direction of cost-effectiveness is by enacting service cuts.

And if the alternative is increasing fares from their already jaw-dropping levels, we’re inclined to agree.

But, of course, that isn’t quite accurate.

According to a chart handed out to meeting attendees on Tuesday, up to 80 percent of WSF’s total budget is spend on vessel and terminal operations, fuel and, wait for it ... labor costs.

The latter category adds up to $262 million, which goes to pay unionized crew members.

Moseley insists the labor contract is binding, and that’s true ... as far as it goes.

But a bankrupt company can usually renegotiate a crippling labor agreement, so why shouldn’t a state agency have the same privilege?

An enterprise that needs $83 million worth of shoring up from a parent running a multi-billion dollar deficit itself is the very definition of bankruptcy.

Isn’t it about time Moseley, Gov. Gregoire, the Legislature and the unions accepted what seems obvious to anyone with a passing acquaintance with economics?

Namely, that it isn’t ferry service in general that’s financially unsustainable.

What’s unsustainable is a ferry service based on lavish contracts negotiated by career bureaucrats with little incentive to play hardball with the taxpayers’ money and backed by a governor whose strings have been pulled by organized labor since she first took office.

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