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2 councilors want to replace city’s negotiator

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Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Two city councilors plan to push for a no-confidence vote in City Hall’s chief labor negotiator after a stalemate of several years in talks with four city unions.

Rey Garduño and Diane Gibson are also calling on Mayor Richard Berry to terminate the city’s contract with the company, Management Associates Inc., which serves as the city’s representative in union negotiations. The city has paid the firm about $422,000 since 2010.

Garduño and Gibson, both Democrats, say the company’s president, John Martinez, has an aggressive style that isn’t serving the city well.

Under Berry, a Republican, the administration has been unable to reach contracts with four of seven city unions, covering blue collar, clerical, security and transit employees.

“I think it’s time for a change,” Gibson said in an interview. “… I don’t think that his style has helped him and it certainly has not helped the city.”

Rob Perry, the top administrator under the mayor, said the company’s work speaks for itself. The three unions now under contract – firefighters, police and middle management – represent about two-thirds of the city’s workforce, he said.

“I think that speaks highly of the administration and the (negotiating) team providing the taxpayers with a reasonable outcome – a positive outcome so far,” Perry said.

A key holdup in talks with the remaining unions appears to be “union time,” a practice in which union officers draw their regular city pay even if they handle union work during the day.

The three unions under contract have agreed to cover union time by creating a pool of leave donated by employees. Union representatives can tap into the pool when they need to do union work during the work day.

Perry said the city has money set aside for pay raises, but employees in the remaining unions haven’t received them “because some of the union leadership can’t agree to go back to work doing their regular city jobs.”

Garduño argues that the failure to reach agreement on contracts with so many unions “is an awful record since 2010 – $422,000 is a lot of money to be paying someone who’s not been successful.”

Councilor Trudy Jones, a Republican, opposes the no-confidence vote. She said that, because negotiations are private, outsiders can’t know whether the holdup is due to the city negotiator, the union negotiator or some other factor.

“I’m not big about trying to make my point in the press,” she said of the proposal.

The Journal was unable to reach Martinez for comment.

The proposal for a vote of no confidence is scheduled for introduction at next week’s council meeting. Final action on the idea won’t come until a future meeting.

The Berry administration hired Management Associates in early 2010. The company also worked for the city more than a dozen years ago under then-Mayor Jim Baca.

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