October 20, 2014

Branstad may fire many newly-hired state workers

Terry Branstad (file photo)

Governor-elect Terry Branstad says he and his staff will be reviewing the list of recently-hired state employees and some of them will be fired.

Last summer over 2000 state workers accepted an incentive package and retired early. Governor Culver authorized hiring just over a thousand workers to fill key positions which had been held by those retiring workers. According to Branstad, many of those new hires are still in a six-month probationary period and can be let go.

“It’s a sad thing, because they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place,” Branstad said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “But we may just have to say, ‘Is this hire really necessary?'” 

Branstad and his staff estimate as many as 900 state workers have been hired to fill positions previously held by workers who retired and, since they’ve been on the job for less than six months, they fall within that probationary period when the worker can be let go, without cause.

“And I feel badly for the people, but I just think they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place,” Branstad said. 

Branstad has directed his staff to review all newly-hired state government employees, not just those brought on to fill the jobs vacated by retiring workers. Branstad also plans to seek major changes in the pay and benefit package Governor Culver negotiated with the union which represents the largest share of executive branch workers.

“We are inheriting a fiscal mess and we’re going to straighten it out,” Branstad said, slapping his hand on the table to emphasize his point. “…I don’t fault the unions on this. I fault management. Management, I think, has failed to represent the taxpayers of Iowa.” 

Danny Homan

Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, says state employees who are members of his union already are growing weary of Branstad’s attacks, before Branstad even takes office. 

“I believe it will be a sad day in this state if Governor-elect Branstad lays off people that were hired into critical positions to provide public safety or to care for Iowa’s most vulnerable residents that are in our institutions,” Homan said during an interview with Radio Iowa. 

According to Homan, the state prisons are woefully understaffed and more, not fewer, direct care workers are needed at the state’s Mental Health Institutes. “Quit going after the people that are out there doing the work,” Homan said, a comment directed at Branstad. 

Homan’s union lobbied for a state law which stipulates that each manager in state government should oversee about 15 workers.  Homan believes that standard is not being met.

“What appalls me and appalls this union is the number of management people that have been replaced,” Homan said. “That is the kind of hiring I wish this governor would look at.”

Homan and Governor Culver formally signed the new, two-year contract for AFSCME members on Friday.  Culver had agreed to the deal in November and AFSCME members ratified it in December.