Arbitrator Rules That Iowa State Employees Don’t Have to Pay Part of Their Own Health Premiums
Wednesday, March, 13, 2013
According to a recent arbitration ruling, Iowa state employees will not have to pay part of their health insurance costs, despite the insistence of Gov. Terry Branstad that they do so. However, a spokesman for Governor Branstad, Tim Albrecht, said that it is the taxpayers of the state of Iowa who will have to live with the negative effects of that 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? We don’t think so,” said Albrecht.
AFSCME Iowa Council President Danny Homan had a different response to the ruling: “We are pleased that the arbitrator recognized that the union’s final offer was the most reasonable proposal,” he said. And despite the fact that the ruling will cost additional taxpayer money, since Branstad did attempt to negotiate with the union, the process of doing so saved those same taxpayers approximately $94 million—something that didn’t happen in a similar incident that happened a few years ago when the then-Governor Chet Culver accepted the union’s opening offer.
The results of the binding arbitration ruling apply to an ongoing negotiation that has been occurring between state negotiators and Iowa’s largest public employees’ union concerning a new two-year collective bargaining agreement that would begin on July 1. In those negotiations, Gov. Branstad requested that the State Police Officers Council (SPOC) approve the motion for approximately 600 members union to pay a larger percentage of their own health insurance premiums. In doing so, he hoped that a precedent would be set for other employee collective bargaining groups within the state.
“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,” said Homan. He continued to assert that the state employees’ union has made multiple concessions regarding wages and changes in plan design to compensate for the state’s budgeting shortfalls. In such, he claims that the state’s offer was simply cost-shifting when there should be a more concerted effort to lower costs, instead