Talks that will lead to a new contract for five unionized employees of the Fort Dodge Public Library began Wednesday morning with the workers' representatives submitting their proposal and the city administration countering with its own ideas.
Negotiations with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61 will now go on behind closed doors with another meeting slated for next Wednesday.
AFSCME Iowa Council 61 also represents city public works and parks employees. However, the library workers have a separate contract.
The current library contract, which covers the people who run the circulation desk and catalog all the library's materials, expires June 30, 2013.
The union's proposal calls for a 4 percent raise in each year of a three-year contract, according to Rick Eilander, a representative of the bargaining unit.
The union, he said, proposes to keep the same insurance package.
''I don't believe the essence of the contract has changed,'' Eilander said.
The city, represented by Jim Vollmer, the human resources director; and Barb Schulz, the library director; is offering a two-year contract with a 1 percent raise in each year of the contract.
That raise would be awarded on Jan. 1, 2014 and Jan. 1, 2015 instead of on July 1 of each year. City employee raises have often been awarded on July 1, which is the start of the city's fiscal year.
''It does help with budgeting to have it start partway through a fiscal year,'' Vollmer said.
The city is also offering a choice of health insurance plans. One would have a high deductible - $2,500 for an individual - but employees wouldn't have to help pay the premiums for it.
The other insurance option is a modified version of the current plan in which employees would pay 10 percent of the premium.
Vollmer said if the city's proposal is accepted, employees would have to decide every year which of the two insurance options they want.
In addition to the negotiations on two AFSCME contracts, talks are also underway in Fort Dodge between the city and International Association of Firefighters Local 622.