Government

Iowa offers public employees no pay increase for two years

(File photo) The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, photographed on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gaze
(File photo) The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, photographed on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

A contract proposal offering no wage increase for two years is a “punch in the gut” to state employees, many of whom are working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the union representing them.

“This is a slap across the face,” Danny Homan, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, said Monday after the Department of Administrative Services made its initial offer in the contract bargaining.

The state countered Homan’s “reasonable” call for a 3 percent across-the-board wage increase in each of the next two fiscal years by offering no pay hike to approximately 19,000 employees at prisons, colleges, health agencies and other state institutions who are represented by AFSCME.

Minutes after the virtual meeting with Nathan Reckman, general counsel for DAS, Homan said he was receiving “colorful texts, some with very colorful language” from AFSCME members responding to the offer.

He went into the meeting with low expectations because the state offered public safety employees represented by the State Police Officers Council an increase of one-half of 1 percent.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be good ... but we didn’t even get a half of a percent,” Homan said.

It shows that GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Republican legislative majority do not recognize “the hard, hard, dangerous work that employees inside the bargaining units have done over the last nine months.” At least two correctional officers working is state prisons where COVID-19 has spiked have died, he said.

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Coming on the heels of Reynolds and GOP lawmakers congratulating themselves for ending the fiscal year with a budget surplus and the Revenue Estimating Conference last week raising its revenue projections, the contract offer “tells 18,000 hardworking, dedicated employees they are not worth any across-the-board increase,” Homan said.

“It’s crystal clear that the Republican Party does not value the work public employees do,” Homan said. “This governor doesn’t care about employees who work for her.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to his comments.

A 2017 law passed by the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature 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.

The contract talks now move into closed-door talks.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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