Krieger is chairman of the board of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Ostergard is chairman of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. Scherer is chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry. All three are businessmen.
Over the past few months, the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR) has been consistently in the news. The CIR is an appointed body that mandates resolutions of wage and benefit disputes between government employers and their employee unions.
We are interested in this issue because we are concerned about the impact that high taxes have on the ability of the state economy to grow. Our business members, their employees and their families are all affected.
In January, nine proposals were introduced in the Nebraska Legislature attempting to reform the CIR. Also in January, representatives from our business organizations testified before the Business and Labor Committee advocating for substantive change in the function and structure of the CIR. Those proposals were killed by the committee.
In April, the Business and Labor Committee unveiled a proposal, which has become Legislative Bill 397.
In the spirit of compromise, a few weeks later we offered a major proposal that would have fully preserved collective bargaining for public employees and retained the CIR, but would allow the CIR to share powers with elected officials.
We began with these four basic principles:
>> Impact all facets of government, including schools.
>> Result in the opportunity for cost savings and-or cost containment for every facet of government.
>> Allow elected officials and public employers to manage the budget they were elected to manage.
>> Provide a transparent means to resolve labor disputes.
That proposal also was rejected.
Yet again, in the spirit of compromise, we are offering another significant proposal that would retain collective bargaining for public employees and keep the CIR. This new proposal focuses on providing flexibility, creativity, transparency and several cost-containment measures. Our proposal was developed after receiving input from broad-based constituencies not previously represented. We believe all stakeholders would benefit.
The business community continues to search for an appropriate solution to this vexing problem for the benefit of the state. In business, we know it is imperative to provide competitive wages and benefits that attract the best talent. We believe the same holds true for government employees. Average is not inspiring.
Businesses understand that we won’t be in business long if we lose control of our expenses. The same is true for government, and steadily rising expenses negatively affect taxpayers. We believe our proposal is the only one that effectively addresses the issues we’ve outlined above.
It is important that substantive and comprehensive change to the CIR be accomplished legislatively this session. We understand that time is very short, but we pledge to continue to work toward a solution.
We encourage all Nebraskans to ask their senators to seek real CIR reform.