Republicans at the statehouse may seek changes in union benefit packages for government workers in Iowa.
Janet Phipps is director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services and she’s the governor’s lead negotiator on union contracts.
“What we’re anticipating and what has been mentioned is there’s going to be some conversation about how the state is going to deliver group health care benefits to public employees,” she says.
Republican Terry Branstad has trying to get the state’s union workers to pay more of their health insurance premiums since he returned to the governor’s office in 2011. After election victories this month, Republicans will have sizable governing majorities in both the House and Senate in 2017. Branstad’s considering the idea of consolidating health insurance policies for union employees at all levels of government in Iowa.
“He has mentioned that in the past, that he would like to look at pooling resources, if you will, of all public entities, whether it’s schools or counties or municipalities,” Phipps says. “I think he envisions something big that could be explored and have a big master contract. He’d like to do that.”
State officials on Monday began contract talks with the union that represents 600 state law enforcement officers, including state troopers. There were no insurance benefits included in management’s initial offer. AFSCME represents the largest percentage of state workers and negotiations with AFSCME begin Wednesday afternoon. By state law, contracts must be finalized by March 15. If an arbitrator has to make the call, Phipps says that means management and the unions involved have to stake out their final positions by late February.
“So it would be moving briskly along, certainly, if there were going to be discussions legislatively to do something different,” Phipps says.
On Monday, state officials made their initial offer to the State Police Officers Council. It’s the union that represents 600 employees in state government. The offer? A one percent raise in each of the next two years. The union’s initial request was for pay hikes in each year of three percent.