UPDATE: An arbitrator has ruled in favor of a state employees’ union that objected to Gov. Terry Branstad’s insistence they pay a part of their health insurance costs.
“We are pleased that the arbitrator recognized that the union’s final offer was the most reasonable proposal,” AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan said.
Gov. Terry Branstad was not pleased, but his spokesman, Tim Albrecht, said the governor and Iowa taxpayers will have to live with the decision.
“Look, is it really fair for Iowa taxpayers to pay their full premium and then pay the full premium for state workers who aren’t engaged in a wellness program, who aren’t seeing their overall health improved?” Albrecht said. “We don’t think so.”
He did point out that by negotiation with the union – rather than accept the union’s opening offer like Gov. Chet Culver did two years ago – Branstad saved Iowa taxpayers about $94 million.
Negotiators for the state and its largest public employees’ union had gone to binding arbitration in hopes of hammering out a new two-year collective bargaining agreement beginning July 1.
Branstad called a voluntary agreement with the State Police Officers Council (SPOC) bargaining unit that calls for the roughly 600 members to pay more of their health insurance costs a fair agreement that he hoped would be a pattern for the other two state employees’ collective bargaining groups.
However, Homan said the union clear that state employees have repeatedly made wage concessions and plan design changes to maintain their health insurance.
“We demonstrated that the state currently has historic surpluses and that state government’s health insurance costs for employees have been stable over the past several years,” he said.
He called the state’s offer “nothing more than cost shifting” without lowering costs. It amounted to a pay cut for state workers.
The governor was disappointed that AFSCME, unlike SPOC, gave up a pay increase in favor of the 100 percent health insurance coverage.
“SPOC agreed to a pay increase and agreed to pay 20 percent toward their health care premium with the option to buy it down by participating in a wellness program,” Albrecht said. “Why the union bosses refuse to have their employees participate in a wellness program is beyond us.”