Government

State negotiators offer 1 percent annual raise to union employees

Iowa United Professionals had sought 4.5 percent annual increase in initial contract

Negotiators for Iowa United Professionals (IUP) and the state of Iowa (right) go over a counter offer made by the state Monday to provide a 1 percent pay raise at the start of the next two fiscal years for IUP members in a new two-year collective bargaining agreement that would take effect next July 1. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Negotiators for Iowa United Professionals (IUP) and the state of Iowa (right) go over a counter offer made by the state Monday to provide a 1 percent pay raise at the start of the next two fiscal years for IUP members in a new two-year collective bargaining agreement that would take effect next July 1. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — State negotiators on Monday offered 1 percent across-the-board wage increases for each of the next two fiscal years to union leaders representing social and scientific employees in state government.

The state’s offer was in response to an Iowa United Professionals proposed contract seeking 4.5 percent annual raises, among other wage increases, as the union seeks a new collective bargaining agreement.

Janet Phipps, director of Administrative Services and chief state negotiator, gave the state’s two-year contract proposals to union representatives with a red line drawn through all parts of the documents except for the wage provisions, noting that is the only mandatory subject of bargaining under a 2017 state law, which is being challenged in court by Iowa’s two largest state-employees unions.

This is the state’s initial proposal in the negotiating process, and Phipps said the state’s version of contract — which will cover about 2,400 social-service, scientific and professional workers from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2021 — calls for an across-the-board base pay hike of 1 percent at the start of the next two fiscal years and no “step” wage increases.

“Everything else is struck,” said Phipps, based on changes approved by the Legislature in 2017 and signed into law by former Gov. Terry Branstad.

Earlier this month, Iowa United Professionals representatives Becky Dawes and Greg Cross presented a contract offer seeking a 4.5 percent across-the-board raise for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and a midyear bump of 2 percent each year for maximum pay grades, noting their members have gone two years without a base wage increase.

“They offered their initial proposal,” Phipps said after Monday’s meeting. “This is where we start.”

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Speaking with reporters Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the collective bargaining talks with state employee unions represent “a balance” in arriving at contract terms that taxpayers can afford.

“It’s no different than what a business does when they put a budget together,” she said. “We’re going to do the best that we can with the resources that we have.

“We’re grateful for our state employees — they’re the boots on the ground,” Reynold’s added. “They’re the ones who are carrying out the mission every single day.

Cross held out hope that during talks the negotiators could discuss other workplace issues beyond wages, despite the state’s indication otherwise.

“We have to start somewhere, and that’s where the state started and, hopefully, the parties will be able to sit down and reach a voluntary agreement on a contract that both parties would be happy with,” Cross said. “We’re hoping that through the course of negotiations we might be able to talk about other things other than just wages.”

In the initial proposals, Iowa United Professionals negotiators included provisions that would revert to language in the previous contract pertaining to health insurance and other benefits that no longer are subject to negotiations under the law, should the state supreme court decide to strike down the 2017 changes.

Two unions are challenging the law in suits that came before the Iowa Supreme Court last week, saying the law violates the Iowa Constitution by creating separate classes of public employees: some who retained most of their collective bargaining rights and others who lost most.

The law limits most public-sector union contract negotiations to base wages capped by the cost of living, while eliminating such issues as health insurance and supplemental pay as mandatory topics for discussion.

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Public safety employees are allowed to bargain on a wider range of issues than others, so the 600-member Police Officers Council proposal offered earlier this month included provisions covering benefits and wages. The state is slated to respond to that union’s offer on Tuesday.

Representatives of the officers’ union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 61, which represents roughly 19,000 public employees in Iowa, both proposed 3 percent raises for their members for each fiscal year in contracts that would start next July 1.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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