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Q: What are the prohibited topics of bargaining and what does that mean for my job?
A: According to the new law, the following topics cannot be negotiated with a union representing public employees: insurance, leaves of absence for political activities, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction, and subcontracting public services. These are in addition to the restriction on negotiating retirement benefits.
This does not mean that employees represented by a public employee union will no longer receive insurance or be covered by policies providing supplemental pay, transfer and layoff procedures. Rather, these will be determined outside the collective bargaining process.
At the University of Iowa, many policies addressing the above topics are already in place for non-bargaining employees. Unless established by law or Board of Regents policy, the university regularly engages with faculty and staff shared governance leaders to create and or modify university policies.
Q: What are the permissive topics of bargaining and what does that mean for my job?
A: Any topic that is not mandatory or prohibited is a permissive topic of bargaining. Leaves of absence and seniority are examples of permissive topics. Until the contracts effective July 1, 2017 are finalized, the university cannot comment on permissive topics of bargaining that may be addressed in negotiations.
Q: How will policy decisions be made on prohibited or permissive topics that will no longer be addressed in a contract?
A: The university and Board of Regents have existing policies in place that address many similar topics for non-bargaining employees. Examples would include those in the Regent Merit System Rules and University Operations Manual. In some cases, changes or additions to policy will be necessary to address issues previously covered in a collective bargaining agreement and unique to that bargaining unit.
Regent Merit System policies are coordinated across the three Iowa public universities and special schools. Representatives from each have already been identified to assist in reviewing the existing merit rules in light of the changes to collective bargaining.
University policies are typically developed through consultation with a variety of constituent groups, including shared governance (e.g. Faculty Senate, Staff Council, and Graduate and Professional Student Government).
Q: What is going to happen to my insurance?
A: While the new laws do prohibit insurance as a topic of contract negotiation, the new law does not prohibit the university from offering competitive insurance options to employees.
Each of the three collective bargaining groups will see different changes in their insurance on different timelines:
-COGS represented employees will continue to have the option of UI Grad Care health insurance as it exists in the current contract, and this insurance will continue to be available to graduate assistants until the end of 2018.
-SEIU represented employees already participate in the University’s health and dental insurance programs and will continue to do so after their current contract expires on July 1, 2017.
-AFSCME represented employees enrolled in health plans offered by the state of Iowa will continue to participate in those plans through December 31, 2017. AFSCME represented employees with hire dates on or after July 1, 2017, are eligible for university benefits, including health and dental insurance programs. AFSCME represented employees hired before that date will move to these programs effective January 1, 2018.
Q: Do the changes mean I can be fired without notice or grievance?
A: The university and Board of Regents have existing policies articulating standards and procedures for discipline, termination and grievances. More information is available in the Regents System Merit Rules and University Operations Manual.
Q: What does it mean that the union has to recertify?
A: According to the new law, public employee unions must be recertified before each contract negotiation. As contract negotiations occur every two years, this means public employee unions must recertify every two years.
Recertification is a process by which the employees represented by a union vote on whether they wish to continue being represented by that union. To be represented by a union, the majority (or more than 50%) of employees in a bargaining unit must vote to remain represented by the union.
University employees will need to recertify their current unions between June 1 and November 30, 2018 for the next contract negotiations.
Q: I’ve heard there will be changes in paying union dues.
A: The new law prohibits the university from deducting dues from an employee’s payroll. Public employee unions will need to develop an alternate method of collecting dues from members.