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Council votes to tighten requirements for pay-equity incentive

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Companies already receiving the gender pay equity preference in the bidding process when they seek a contract with the city of Albuquerque soon will have to show that they have narrowed the pay gap between their male and female employees even further in order to keep that preference.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to require that companies reduce their wage gap to 7 percent or less in order to qualify for the 5 percent preference. Companies can currently qualify for the bonus points by showing that they pay women at least within 10 percent of what they pay men in comparable jobs.

The new requirement will go into effect July 1. The city currently has 59 vendors certified for the pay equity preference.

“We’re raising the bar for our potential contractors by decreasing the gap from 10 percent to 7 percent,” District 7 Councilor Diane Gibson, sponsor of the legislation, told reporters during a news conference before the council meeting.

Gibson said the legislation is aimed at encouraging potential city contractors to look at their pay scales and to provide an incentive for paying employees fairly.

“That means equal pay for equal work,” she said.

The amendment is supported by Mayor Richard Berry.

“Women in the U.S. make less than men for doing the same work, and that’s not right and we’re not going to stand for it in Albuquerque,” he told reporters.

Berry said 54 years of federal regulations aimed at closing that gap haven’t worked.

“We tried to come up with a different approach, providing incentives versus being punitive,” he said.

The original Gender Pay Equity Ordinance, which was adopted in 2015, was the first of its kind at the municipal level.

Martha Bur, a city contractor and national expert on gender pay equity, said a number of other cities and states are following Albuquerque’s lead and working on similar policies of their own.

All private sector city contractors are required to submit a pay equity reporting form before their final contracts can be executed.

While the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women, studies have found that men still make more than women for the same work.

Gibson told her council colleagues that the gap nationwide currently stands at about 21 percent.