Government

State law officers seek wage hike

Negotiators for the state and members of the State Police Officers Council (SPOC) restart talks at a West Des Moines hot
Negotiators for the state and members of the State Police Officers Council (SPOC) restart talks at a West Des Moines hotel Feb. 20, 2017, aimed at forging a new, two-year state contract covering about 600 Iowa State troopers, special agents with the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, state fire inspectors and agents, Iowa conservation officers, and Iowa park rangers. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The union representing state law enforcement employees is seeking higher wages in recognition of the risks they take to protect the public and carry out state laws.

Negotiators for the roughly 600-member State Police Officers Council (SPOC) on Tuesday requested a 3 percent across-the-board pay increase for next fiscal year and 3.5 percent in fiscal 2023 at the start of talks with the state Department of Administrative Services.

The state’s bargaining team will make its counter offer in two weeks before closed-door talks get underway with the goal of reaching agreement on a new two-year contract effective July 1. Neither side commented on the union’s initial proposal during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting.

The SPOC bargaining unit is made up of about 600 state troopers, special agents with the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, state fire inspectors and agents, Iowa conservation officers, and Iowa park rangers. SPOC and state negotiators settled for a 2.5 percent annual across-the-board wage increase in the current contract.

Tuesday’s talks begin with the state budget in a surplus position of about $300 million with cash and emergency reserves full at 10 percent. In the past, law officers have argued Iowa needs to keep salaries competitive for state law enforcement employees in a tight job market where agencies are having a tough time attracting and keeping quality candidates in high-risk, high-stress jobs.

State negotiators also are scheduled to begin contract talks with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, the largest state employees’ bargaining unit with nearly 19,000 members, and representatives of Iowa United Professionals, which bargains for about 2,400 social-service, scientific and professional workers.

In February 2017, the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature overhauled the state’s collective bargaining laws, stripping most elements for which public employees may bargain through union representation.

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The law, which was signed by former Gov. Terry Branstad and upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court, 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. Public safety employees, though, are allowed to bargain on a wider range of issues than others, including health insurance benefits.

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

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