NAPE members at the Richardson County Roads Department have been in negotiations with the Richardson County Board of Commissioners for a new labor contract since March 2020. Our contract expired on June 30, 2020, without a successor contract in place. Our members continue to work under the terms of the expired contract while we attempt to reach an agreement with the Board of Commissioners.
The Board of Commissions have not moved from their initial salary offer from last spring. NAPE members were willing to accept the salary proposal, in exchange for a grievance procedure that ends in binding arbitration. Under the current agreement, the final step of the grievance process is a hearing before the county grievance board. The only problem is that the Board of Commissions unilaterally appoint the majority of the grievance board members. This is a completely unacceptable procedure for settling disputes, and it is unfair to NAPE members.
In late 2020, NAPE declared impasse and filed a petition with the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR) asking the CIR to settle the dispute in accordance with state law. The AFSCME Research Department conducted a full compatibility analysis, and we are confident that our members will receive an equal or better salary increase through the impasse procedure.
This dispute is not about salary, but rather about a fair procedure for settling grievances. The Richardson County Board of Commissioners cited “cost” as the reason for not agreeing to an arbitration procedure in the contract. While there are costs to arbitration, it is significantly cheaper than settling disputes in court. NAPE estimates an annual cost for arbitration to Richardson County at less than $5,000. Meanwhile, the Richardson County Board of Commissioners have spent considerably more than $5,000 in legal fees fighting this proposal. It doesn’t seem to be about cost, but rather about complete control of the dispute resolution process.
A mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has been appointed by the CIR, and the parties will meet with the mediator in early March to attempt to settle the dispute without the need to go through an impasse trial at the CIR. NAPE is hopeful that the dispute can be settled in mediation, but we will not back down to the Board of Commissioners who have not bargained in good faith.