Governor Chet Culver says a second union representing state executive branch workers is close to drafting an agreement similar to what AFSCME union’s leaders are putting before AFSCME members for a vote.
Earlier this week AFSCME announced an “understanding” which would see about 20,000 state executive branch workers take five unpaid days off as a way to help prevent layoffs for 479 union workers in state government. Culver says negotiations went late into the night Tuesday with another union contemplating a similar deal.
“We will have some details forthcoming but we’re very close on at least one additional union that hopefully will entertain a similiar agreement — memo of understanding — and take it to a vote of their membership,” Culver says.
Layoff plans announced in late October targeted nearly 800 state workers, but if workers agree to pay and benefit concessions, some of those 791 layoffs could be averted. AFSCME represents about 500 of those workers. About one hundred more are represented by two other unions. One represents many of the social workers in the Department of Human Services and the other union represents officers in the Departments of Public Safety and Natural Resources. Culver says if union workers agree on pay and benefit reductions, the number of layoffs will be dramatically reduced.
“Hopefully, instead of 800, you know, we could be talking about 100 or 200,” Culver says. “That would be probably the best-case scenario at this point.”
If the union workers who’s members of AFSCME reject the pay and benefit reductions during voting later this month, there will be more widespread layoffs, but the governor says there may not be the 791 layoffs department managers recommended in late October.
“Because we can go back and forth with the director. We will not accept a final plan until we have a comfort level, given the number of employees they have, that those essential services are a priority,” Culver says. “Now, you know, hopefully we don’t have to go there, but I just want the general public to know that, yeah, these cuts are going to be real and they’re going to be severe, but we’re going to do everything we can to keep our roads safe and keep those prisoners locked up.”
Culver says he and legislators will consider more ways to streamline state government in the coming year, such as incentives to get up to 2700 eligible executive branch workers to retire.
In October, Governor Culver ordered a 10 percent, across-the-board cut in the executive branch of state government. The legislative and judicial branches are making their own budget-cutting moves. The chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court announced today the judicial branch budget would be pared by 7.1 percent.