Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) is covered in Chapter 20 of the Code of Iowa and contains procedures by which employees can collectively bargain. The law was significantly amended during the 2017 legislative session. Because of the complexity of the process, many cities choose to enlist the help of labor negotiators, consultants and/or attorneys specializing in labor relations to assist with personnel issues and negotiations with bargaining units.
Rights of Employers and Employees
Under PERA, public employer rights are covered in Section 20.7, while public employee rights are covered in Section 20.8. The scope of negotiations is included in Section 20.9. Significant legislative changes have occurred recently, including the following:
- Creates a new definition of “public safety employee” that includes a marshal or police officer of a paid police department and a permanent or full-time firefighter of a paid fire department.
- Section 20.9 of the Code, which covers the scope of collective bargaining negotiations, is amended so that only collective bargaining units with a majority of members who are public safety employees may negotiate certain issues (wages, hours, insurance, holidays, vacations, leaves of absence, supplemental pay, seniority, procedures for staff reduction and more).
- For non-public safety bargaining units the law was amended so that they may only negotiate base wages and other mutually agreed upon matters. Such units may not negotiate insurance, leaves of absence for political activity, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reductions, release time, subcontracting for public services, grievance procedures, wage increases, employment benefits or other employment advantages based on seniority.
- All agreements will be limited to no longer than five years, and mandatory subjects of negotiation identified in Section 20.9 must be interpreted narrowly and restrictively.
- Prohibits payroll deductions (“dues checkoffs”) for bargaining unit membership dues or for political action committees or other political contributions and activities. Additional dues guidance can be found Iowa Public Employment Relations Board Web site.
PERA continues to make it unlawful for any public employee or any employee organization, directly or indirectly, to induce, instigate, encourage, authorize, ratify or participate in a strike against any public employer.
The Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) administers the provisions of PERA. PERB’s statutory duty is to assist labor and management in resolving disputes and is organized as a neutral executive branch agency administered by a three-member board. PERB also has a responsibility to provide data and information relevant to collective bargaining and maintains an electronic database of current and past contracts as well as applicable PERB and court decisions.
PERA requires that certified employee organizations file an annual report and audit with PERB following the end of the certified employee organization’s fiscal year. Employers are required to forward copies of all collective bargaining agreements to PERB as soon as they have been prepared.