WATERLOO — Police officers and firefighters will see bigger pay raises than other city workers over the next two years.
Waterloo City Council members voted 6-0 Monday to approve new four-year collective bargaining agreements with seven labor unions representing roughly 430 city workers.
While most police officers and firefighters will see 3.25 percent raises July 1, 2019, and 3 percent raises July 1, 2020, employees represented by other bargaining units will see just 2.5 percent annual raises during those years.
Raises for the final two years of the contracts would be negotiated in the future.
Human Resources Director Lance Dunn said the wage disparity is tied to changes Gov. Terry Branstad and the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature made to the state’s collective bargaining laws in February 2017.
“Public safety employees could negotiate pretty much the same things they always have,” Dunn said. “Non-public safety employees could only negotiate base wages.”
Public safety units can still bargain for health insurance benefits while other government employees are explicitly banned from having insurance language in their contracts, for example.
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The additional “leverage” afforded police and fire unions has led to larger raises for those employees under contracts approved statewide since the changes were made, Dunn said.
Councilman Pat Morrissey blasted the changes in state law limiting bargaining rights and essentially setting up two tiers of workers.
“It’s a sad day that we see state lawmakers turning our city into a divisive kind of environment when it comes down to negotiating raises and different terms,” he said. “I support all of our good public employees in the city of Waterloo.”
While the police and fire unions were the only employees allowed to negotiate health insurances premiums and coverage, city officials said the adopted plans still will apply to all city workers.
Dunn said the current health insurance policies have not changed in the past four years and will not change for the next two years. The police and fire contracts call for the benefit to be renegotiated in the third and fourth years.
City employees currently pay $40 a month for single coverage and $80 a month for family health insurance plans.
Councilman Steve Schmitt voiced his disapproval that taxpayers were providing a benefit level he believes is better than those provided to private sector workers.
“I don’t know of a person in the private sector that has not seen an increase in the last two or three years,” Schmitt said.