Gov calls for reform of labor dispute board


December 16th, 2010

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Gov. Heineman wants to change the way Nebraska resolves labor disputes (Photo courtesy State of Nebraska)

Lincoln, NE – Gov. Dave Heineman’s trying to drum up support for changing the way Nebraska resolves public employee wage disputes.

The Commission of Industrial Relations is a means for resolving wage disputes between Nebraska governments, including school districts, and their employees. When a case goes to the CIR, it compares the wages in question to those paid in similar situations elsewhere. Supporters say the CIR promotes fairness; critics say it drives up wages and adds to government expense. Speaking to school administrators, Heineman called on them to support changing the system, which he predicted would be one of the hottest issues before the Legislature.

“The cities are already working on this issue. The Omaha Chamber and other business leaders are willing to entertain the idea of eliminating the CIR. The stars are aligned for meaningful action on the CIR. But I’m going to challenge you and the school boards: what are you going to do?”

Nebraska Council of School Administrators Executive Director Mike Dulaney said the CIR ignores government’s ability to pay. But he said labor’s support makes it politically very difficult to change.

“So I think the ideas of shelving the CIR or doing away with it are simply absurd. I don’t see that happening. What I do see as a possibility is some type of systemic reform.”

Dulaney said school groups need to get together to come up with a realistic proposal. Nebraska State Education Association President Jess Wolf said the CIR does not result in excess wages, since Nebraska teachers pay ranks 42nd among the states. Wolf said unions will oppose efforts to abolish the CIR.

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