WATERLOO — Black Hawk County officials will continue negotiating over items a new state law would allow them to remove from labor contracts.
The county Board of Supervisors swapped initial contract offers Thursday with two Teamsters Local 238 bargaining units representing employees in the secondary roads department and sheriff’s office.
They’re the first labor agreements the county started negotiating since the Iowa Legislature adopted sweeping changes in 2017 stripping most public employee unions of the right to bargain for anything beyond base wages.
“Some counties have made the decision to remove everything from the contract and literally just leave wages,” said Michael Galloway, the county’s labor attorney. “We’re not making that decision today.
“The board … decided they didn’t want to go down that road that some counties have by taking everything out,” he added. “We’re actually going to leave the language in the contract that we can.”
The Board of Supervisors, all Democrats, voted in February 2017 to oppose changes the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad eventually made to the state’s collective bargaining laws.
The law only requires public employers only to negotiate base wages. It prohibits the employers from negotiating insurance, supplemental pay, retirement systems and work rules covering transfer, evaluation and layoff procedures.
Other items such as vacations, holidays, longevity pay, sick leave and other items not expressly prohibited by the new law can stay in the contract only if the employer agrees to negotiate those items. Some public employers are choosing to remove those permissive items and place them in employee handbooks.
Employees must still negotiate a full range of issues with public safety bargaining units representing firefighters and law enforcement officers.
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Teamsters Local 238 Unit 4, representing approximately 33 secondary roads department employees, initially asked for a 3.5 percent wage increase in each year of the next contract.
That would raise starting salary of an equipment operator I from $40,622 to $42,044 annually, while a garage mechanic with more than three years on the job would see a pay jump from $57,554 to $59,568 per year.
Teamsters Unit 5, representing approximately 125 sheriff’s deputy, jailers and dispatchers, is seeking a larger first-year pay increase based on comparisons to similar jobs in other large counties and nearby law enforcement agencies.
The union asked for a $2.50 hourly increase for deputies and $1.50 hourly increase for jail and dispatch workers next year.
A senior deputy with 15 years on the job would see a pay raise from $64,022 to $69,222 a year. Starting civilian detention officers, booking clerks, dispatchers and master control technicians would see a salary increase from $38,872 to $41,995.
Union officials said Black Hawk County is currently losing deputies to Cedar Falls due to a pay gap. The current starting pay for a county deputy is $21.59 per hour, compared to $25.57 for a Waterloo police officer and $25.52 for a Cedar Falls police officer.
Teamsters Unit 5 is the only public safety bargaining unit among the nine county units allowed to bargain for health insurance under the new state law.
Galloway said it’s likely the county will use the health insurance plan it negotiates with the deputies for all county employees.