Union: Don't hire consultants

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By David Giuliani

A union representing city employees pleaded with the City Council on Wednesday to end its relationship with a management consulting firm that helps government agencies with negotiations.

Council members then directed city management to do just that.

During the public input portion of the council’s meeting, Christian Laumbach, an official with the state chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, urged the city administration to negotiate directly with the union, without having any third party.

She was referring to an agreement signed by then-City Manager John Avila in February with Albuquerque-based Management Associates, whose principal consultant is John Martinez, who has advised the city previously. Then-interim City Manager Jeff Condrey signed an amendment to the agreement in early June.

“The negotiations have been going fine between management and labor,” Laumbach said. “It would be a mistake (to have Management Consultants). It creates an adversarial situation.”

Laumbach also mentioned that Management Associates charges a government agency in Santa Fe County $100 an hour, while the agreement with the city contains a fee of $125 or $150 an hour, depending on the service.

In a previous negotiation involving Management Associates, the union and the city administration spent a year and a half trying to close the deal, she said. But once the consultants were out of the way, the city was able to reach an agreement within two days, she said.

“They (Management Associates) have a history of intimidation. If they’re brought in, it will be considered a bad-faith effort. Don’t undermine my brothers and sisters,” she said, calling the firm “union busters.”

Councilman Morris Madrid, who has previously criticized the city’s use of Management Associates to help with negotiations, called for the administration to terminate the agreement.

“I have never been in favor of running anyone out of town. In this case, I’ll make an exception,” he said, adding that he believed City Manager Sharon Caballero had enough expertise to handle the negotiations. “This money could be used for compensation instead of confrontation.”

Councilman Cruz Roybal agreed.

“If you want to drive them out of town, I’ll help,” he said.

Marquez noted the agreement dated back to a previous administration, before his March election as mayor. And Councilman Andrew Feldman said he wanted the city to terminate the agreement.

Caballero said she would examine the agreement to determine the city’s obligations and attempt to terminate it.