A study commissioned by Governor Branstad’s administration compared state workers’ pay with the salaries for people who work in other levels of government and the private sector, but the leader of the union that represents the largest share of state workers dismisses the data as “posturing.”
The study found the “base” pay for employees in the executive branch of state government is nearly 18 percent higher than for similar jobs in other governments, like cities and counties, and in the private sector. Iowa Department of Administrative Services director Mike Carroll unveiled the survey results this morning.
“Compared to other states — this is states only now — the pay ranges for State of Iowa employees are significantly higher than other states,” he says.
For instance, prison guards and people who work in the state prison kitchens make more than those who hold similar jobs in prisons in other states. Carroll told reporters this information is not specifically for contracts talks with state employee unions, but he admitted the information won’t be “ignored” either.
“I would hope it wouldn’t be because it’s good, accurate information and that’s why we did it,” Carroll said.
Republican legislators often complain state workers are paid more than those who hold similar jobs in the private sector, but the compensation study released today does not provide that direct comparison. Instead, it compared state worker salaries with those earned in a “marketplace” of private sector companies that employ more than 10,000 people as well as the pay for workers in other state and local governments. Iowa Department of Administrative Services deputy director Michelle Minnehan Golightly says the company that did the study doesn’t do a direct comparison of public versus private sector pay.
“Many of the businesses we are competing for talent with are in private, but we need to be looking at both because we’re in the public sector so that’s a relevant comparative group, as is private,” she says.
Danny Homan is president of Local 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. He dismisses the data as “posturing” from management.
“I just think this is a comparison that was done for the sole purpose of getting the desired result that Governor Branstad wanted,” Homan says.
According to Homan, the pay comparisons in this study will be “invalid” in contract talks.
“The law requires public employers to compare to similar employees doing similar work,” Homan says. “And quite frankly with some of the classifications and some of the work that state employees do in this state, there is no comparison in the private sector and I would cite a correctional officer for example.”
Homan says some city and county governments have tried in the past to compare government workers’ pay to private sector pay.
“But I’ve never seen an arbitrator accept a comparison to the private sector,” Homan says.
A study the state agency released last month analyzed the benefits state workers receive and concluded $116 million could be saved if all state employees paid 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. The director of the Department of Administrative Services says he’s not yet ready to use this new batch of data to recommend changes in the way state workers are paid.
The Democrat who is president of the Iowa Senate issued a written statement, accusing the Branstad administration of trying to “mislead Iowa taxpayers” and he cited a different study which found state workers in Iowa are paid, on average, a salary and benefit package that’s less than private sector workers who have the same type of job and the same level of education.
Branstad administration officials begin contract talks with AFSCME and other unions on November 16.