DES MOINES – Members of a union representing state law enforcement employees Wednesday ratified a two-year contract agreement with Gov. Terry Branstad’s bargaining team that calls for them to pay more of their health insurance costs and provides for one-time base salary increases totaling 1.5 percent during both years of the contract, according to union and state officials.
Mark Bowlin, president of the State Police Officers Council bargaining unit, said the roughly 600 members voted “overwhelmingly” to approve a new two-year pact that will run from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2015. He said the contract “takes into consideration the needs of both parties.” The SPOC officers covered by the new agreement include 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.
According to union officials, the vast majority of the union’s members had been paying 15 percent of their health insurance premiums for many years. Under the new agreement, the percentage was increased to 20 percent for all members of the bargaining unit, however, the agreement also affords members the opportunity to participate in a wellness program to be established by the state that would lower their insurance rates to not above 15 percent of the health insurance premium costs.
Also, the new contract does not give any across-the-board wages increases to any union members during the contract period, but it does provide for one-time base salary increases totaling 1.5 percent during both years of the contract.
According to the governor’s office, the wage provisions call for a 1 percent bonus in July and January in both fiscal years 2014 and 2015 in lieu of increases in base pay. The agreement also implements merit-based step pay increases in each of the next two fiscal years.
“This was a good faith negotiation that was professionally handled by both sides,” Branstad said in a statement. “In the end, this agreement is a good result. The officers and staff have agreed to a contract that is equitable, will improve the health of their employees, and is a fair bargain for the taxpayers of Iowa.”
The total cost of the contract to all funds is estimated at $5.9 million, with $4 million of that amount coming from the state’s general fund, according to the governor’s office.
Union officials called the conclusion of the collective bargaining process an important first step in retention issues for Iowa’s most experienced Officers.
“Now, Iowa needs to turn its attention to the critical need for rebuilding staffing levels of our sworn officers,” according to an email issued by State Police Officers Council representative Sue Brown. “To start that critical process, in addition to the Legislature fully funding this contract and rebuilding all of our sworn officer numbers,” state officials need to rebuild the Iowa State Patrol by hiring 20 more troopers within the next fiscal year for an agency that has seen historic low staffing levels that need immediate attention. Union officials also called for hiring more rangers at Iowa state parks and increasing the number of state special agents.