May 24, 2017

By Attorney Aaron Hilligas

On May 17, 2017, the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued two rulings that clarify its interpretation of the new law relating to the mandatory, permissive, and illegal subjects of collective bargaining for non-public safety public employees. One ruling involved a negotiability dispute filed by the Oskaloosa Community School District; the other ruling involved a negotiability dispute filed by the Columbus Education Association. Ahlers & Cooney represented the Oskaloosa Community School District in the first case. In these two negotiability rulings, PERB defined the phrase, "base wages," and clarified its understanding of what is included and excluded from the scope of "supplemental pay."

Definition of "Base Wages"

House File 291 changed Chapter 20 by making "base wages" the only mandatory topic of negotiation for non-public safety bargaining units. Since the legislature did not define this phrase, there has been some uncertainty during the first bargaining cycle following the changes to Iowa's public sector collective bargaining law. PERB has now defined "base wages" as "the minimum (bottom) pay for a job classification, category or title, exclusive of additional pay such as bonuses, premium pay, merit pay, performance pay or longevity pay."

Interpretation and Application of "Supplemental Pay"

House File 291 also changed Chapter 20 to make "supplemental pay" a prohibited subject of bargaining for non-public safety bargaining units. (Supplemental pay remains a mandatory subject of bargaining for public safety bargaining units.) The legislature defined the term "supplemental pay" in House File 291 as follows:

"Supplemental pay" means a payment of moneys or other thing of value that is in addition to compensation received pursuant to any other permitted subject of negotiation specified in section 20.9 and is related to the employment relationship.

Although there is now a statutory definition of "supplemental pay," there has been a significant divergence of opinion at the bargaining table about how to apply this definition. The Oskaloosa CSD and Columbus CSD negotiability rulings have now provided some insight into PERB's position on the subject. PERB ruled that "supplemental pay" for non-public safety bargaining units only includes a payment of moneys or other things of value that do not fall within the meaning of other mandatory or permissive topics such as base wages, wages, hours, vacations, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, seniority, job classifications, health and safety matters, in-service training, and grievance procedures. If the proposal falls within one of these other topics, then the proposal is permissive as opposed to illegal as supplemental pay.

Negotiability of Salary Schedules

  • Steps. In the Oskaloosa CSD case, PERB ruled that "step" increases do not fall under the definition of "base wages." Instead, step increases are in the permissive category of "wages." Thus, any step increase on top of the base wage is a permissive subject of bargaining. Longevity steps and career increments are also permissive.
  • Lanes. PERB also concluded that "lanes," which are commonly seen in collective bargaining agreements for educators (e.g. BA+15, BA+30, etc.), are effectively separate job classifications. House File 291 made "job classifications" a permissive topic for non-public safety units. Accordingly, PERB ruled that establishing lane classifications is a permissive subject of bargaining. PERB also ruled, however, that if an employer establishes lane classifications, the base wage for each lane is a mandatory subject of bargaining.
  • Base Wages in a Salary Schedule. PERB concluded the minimum salary for each lane classification, which is usually reflected in "step 1" of each lane, is a mandatory topic as "base wages." But PERB ruled that any increase on the salary schedule above the base wage is permissive.

Other Negotiability Determinations

  • TSS allocation. PERB ruled that the allocation of TSS moneys is a permissive subject of bargaining.
  • Supplemental/Extra-Curricular Salary Schedule. PERB ruled that the establishment and designation of job classifications in a supplemental schedule, such as coaching and activity sponsor assignments, is a permissive subject of bargaining. However, if the employer does establish such classifications, the base wage for each classification is a mandatory subject of bargaining.
  • Other additional duties. PERB determined that other additional duties (such as ticket taking or supervising student spectators at extracurricular activities) and the compensation provided for those assignments (such as an individual activity pass, family activity pass, or cash) are permissive subjects of bargaining.
  • Salary Schedule Placement. PERB ruled that the salary schedule placement of an employee upon initial hire is a permissive subject of bargaining.
  • Lane Movement. PERB ruled that proposals related to an employee's movement between lanes/classifications on the salary schedule is a permissive subject of bargaining.
  • Step Movement. PERB ruled that proposals related to an employee's step movement on the salary schedule is a permissive subject of bargaining.
  • Stipend Payments for Performing Additional Duties. PERB ruled that proposals relating to stipend payments for performing additional duties is a permissive subject of bargaining.

Please contact Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. if you have any questions.

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