Iowa gov., union reach deal to save state jobs

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 4:25 PM

The state and leaders of its largest employee union announced Monday they have reached a deal that would save hundreds of jobs threatened by spending cuts by having the 20,000 union workers take five unpaid furlough days each.

Union leaders also agreed to the suspension of a deferred compensation program.

Culver's office and Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced the deal Monday. The two actions would save the state $26.4 million and allow officials to keep 479 jobs that were threatened.

The agreement still must be approved by union members.

When Culver announced the budget cuts last month, officials said it could cost up to 1,300 jobs. Negotiations with AFSCME leaders have been held since then to avoid some job losses. Talks continue with two smaller unions.

Workers who are not covered by the collective bargaining agreements could still face layoffs. Culver aides said a final number of job cuts wouldn't be known for several days.

Council 61 president Danny Homan announced the agreement during a news conference at the union's headquarters.

"I'm frustrated by the fact that 500 people's jobs are on the line," said Homan. "I'm frustrated and I'm concerned."

While AFSCME represents about 20,000 workers, the union has 9,000 dues-paying members who will decide whether to OK the agreement in voting that begins Nov. 19 and ends Nov. 25.

"If the membership rejects the understanding, layoffs will be ordered," Homan said. "It is now in the hands of the membership of this union."

Culver spokesman Troy Price said officials are still determining the precise number of workers who will lose their jobs but said there's no way to avoid job cuts.

State officials said the furloughs would save about $22.7 million and the suspension of state contributions to the deferred compensation program would save $3.7 million. Employees still will be allowed to contribute to the program.

In a statement, Culver said the agreement with AFSCME would preserve vital services while helping the state balance the budget.

"This is a positive step forward and I encourage the membership to vote yes on this measure," Culver said.

Homan said the agreement "would save as many bargaining unit jobs as possible."

The state and union did not formally reopen the contract. Instead, they reached a separate understanding calling for the furloughs.

When the Legislature convenes in January, Homan said the union would press the governor and lawmakers to consider all their options, including tax increases.

"As I have repeatedly said, this is not a spending issue, this is a revenue issue," said Homan.

Culver and most Democratic legislative leaders have repeatedly said they won't consider tax increases.