Labor commission reforms passed

Lawmakers gave final approval May 25 to a bill that makes changes to the Nebraska Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR), the state’s arbiter of labor disputes between public sector employees and government employers.

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, LB397 includes a formula that allows wages to be adjusted over a three-year period to bring them within a range of between 98 percent and 102 percent of the average of an array, or between 95 percent and 100 percent during periods of recession.

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters in which net state sales and use tax, individual income tax and corporate income tax receipts are less than the same quarters for the prior year.

The bill also:

  • removes the rule of evidence requirement;
  • provides a preference for geographic proximity;
  • eliminates use of a special master in education labor disputes;
  • authorizes appeals directly from the CIR to the Nebraska Supreme Court;
  • incorporates health insurance and pension benefits into an hourly rate value;
  • requires that wage information be adjusted to reflect Nebraska’s cost of living;
  • removes consideration of ability to pay from provisions governing schools;
  • requires that three CIR commissioners be involved in cases regarding wage disputes;
  • lowers the preferred array size from between seven and 13 to between seven and nine.
  • specifies a 70 percent match of duties performed and time spent performing those duties;
  • sets criteria for the size of comparable out-of-state cities and metropolitan statistical areas;
  • removes provisions allowing for public and private wage comparisons, except for public utilities; and
  • requires a public vote on the last, best offer of either a union or public employer before a dispute may be taken to the CIR.

LB397 passed on a 48-0 vote.

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