Court: Districts must bargain over severance cuts

IOWA CITY (AP) – An appeals court says Iowa school districts cannot unilaterally cut employees’ severance pay and must instead bargain any changes with unions.

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday against the Fort Dodge school district, which proposed a plan in 2012 to eliminate severance pay to save money. Teachers who had been with the district more than 10 years, for instance, had been eligible for pay based on their unused sick days.

Unions representing district employees argued that severance pay provisions in their contracts were mandatory topics of collective bargaining. The Public Employment Relations Board agreed, ruling that severance is “supplemental pay” and therefore must be bargained.

The appeals court says the board has the express authority to interpret Iowa’s collective bargaining law, and it cited “sufficient authority” for its decision.