DES MOINES - One day before contract negotiations kick off between the union that represents state workers and Gov. Terry Branstad, a top union official criticized the governor Friday for giving bonuses to top staffers while asking for concessions from public sector employees.
"Some of the bonuses given out by the governor exceed what many state employees make in a year," said Danny Homan, president of Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union represents about 20,000 workers statewide.
Branstad has given bonuses in the tens of thousands of dollars to several agency heads. Spokesman Tim Albrecht defended the practice, saying that it was sometimes necessary to attract top talent.
"It is used only in rare and extreme circumstances for those employees who have gone above and beyond in their duties," Albrecht said.
Homan during a press conference said it was unfair to hand out extra pay to some and then ask union workers to start paying a portion of their health insurance costs. Branstad also wants to freeze pay for state workers over the two-year contract.
"We're talking about a major hardship," said Homan. "He's going to bankrupt people."
Albrecht said the governor wants union members to pay their fair share of health care costs.
The union is seeking to maintain their current health benefits and wants 3 percent raises over the life of the contract. AFSCME held press conferences around the state attacking Branstad on Friday.
Negotiations start Saturday. If the two sides can't make a deal, Homan said the process will go to arbitration Feb. 11. Homan said contracts have been settled through arbitration just twice since state workers started collective bargaining in 1977.