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Contract negotiation between Branstad administration, Iowa state workers goes to arbitration

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DES MOINES, Iowa — An arbitrator will decide new contract terms for state workers after union leaders and negotiators for Gov. Terry Branstad could not reach a deal.

Both sides presented their final proposals to a neutral arbitrator Thursday for a two-year contract that will cover about 19,000 workers in Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A final decision must be made by March 15 for a contract that would start July 1.

A key issue is health insurance. According to data supplied by the Branstad administration, the union has offered to have members pay a fixed monthly premium, which would be a first for many members. But the administration wants workers to pay a larger portion of their health care costs in an effort to save more money.

On wages, the union and the state have both proposed wage increases that provide about a 6 percent pay hike over two years, though the money is distributed differently in each plan. The cost of each proposal is similar.

Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Branstad.

Branstad, a Republican who won re-election to a sixth non-consecutive term in November, tried to get workers to pay for health benefits during the previous contract talks. But union leaders argued against the move and the final contract included no changes to health care, but no raises, except for step increases for workers who hadn't reached top pay scale.

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