The Board of Estimates has hired a New York labor negotiator to bargain with Baltimore firefighters, despite objections from the city council president and the head of the firefighters' union.
The board yesterday agreed to pay $100,000 to Robert Linn, former director of labor relations for New York City, to negotiate a contract with the Baltimore Fire Fighters Local 734 and the Baltimore City Fire Officers Association Local 964. Their contracts expire in June.
Baltimore has been without a labor commissioner to negotiate union contracts for 13 months. Currently, Jesse Hoskins, the city personnel director, is doubling as acting labor commissioner.
Council President Mary Pat Clarke opposed hiring Linn, saying: "I'd prefer to see this $100,000 used for a full-time labor commissioner. I'd hate to send all that money out of town."
Linn is not a stranger here, having negotiated a recent agreement with firefighters that avoided layoffs in return for pay concessions. He has also bargained with Baltimore police.
Hoskins recommended Linn to the board yesterday as being trustworthy, citing his track record negotiating with municipal workers' unions in New York.
By way of rebuttal, Jeffrey A. DeLisle, president of Local 734, read to the board a letter from a New York union official who described Linn as having "lapses in credibility and trustworthiness in his dealings with a number of union leaders."
The letter, written by Vincent J. Bollon, secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said Linn virtually destroyed the good relationship between New York's municipal unions and management.
Bollon warned that if Baltimore hires Linn to negotiate with its unions, "don't look to settle in the near future -- Mr. Linn does not have the ability or desire."
Reached in New York, Linn responded to the criticism by noting that during his tenure as labor relations director, from 1983 to 1989, he negotiated more than 200 labor contracts with 300,000 city workers.
"We reached settlements with all of the groups and bargained what I believe what most people would describe as professionally, and as managers should negotiate," he said.
Linn noted that he negotiated successfully in Baltimore with police and firefighters.
"It's fascinating to me that Jeff DeLisle would leave the table after negotiating a settlement and then attack the person he settled with," said Linn.
DeLisle's warning failed to persuade most of the members of the Board of Estimates.
"I give no weight whatsoever to this letter," said City Solicitor Neal M. Janey.
"It's a good buy," Comptroller Jacqueline McLean said about hiring Linn.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke also favored hiring Linn and made it clear that it was none of DeLisle's business whom the city hires as its negotiator. "Do you think management should select a professional adviser for labor's negotiations?" the mayor asked.