Union leaders representing 25 parking garage workers in Annapolis pleaded again with Annapolis officials yesterday to delay hiring a new company to manage the city's off-street parking.
Calling the city's request for bids "just ludicrous" because it failed to guarantee wages and benefits, representatives for Park America employees asked the City Council's Finance Committee to take a closer look at a contract about to be awarded to a rival.
Park America Inc. ran the city's parking lots and garages for more than a decade, continuing 2 1/2 years after its last contract expired. When the glitch was discovered in November, critics charged that the city had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by allowing the contract to lapse.
Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins called his department chiefs on the carpet and told them to promptly develop specifications for a new contract. The city structured the bid request to save the most money, said Emory Harrison, director of central services.
Towne Park Ltd., a small Annapolis company that first complained about the expired contract, submitted the lowest bid. But the contract was heldup after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 warned thatthe new management would have to honor the union's previous agreement with Park America employees.
Yesterday, Joseph Kerhart, the servicing director for Local 27, acknowledged the collective bargaining agreement was not binding after the contract lapsed. But he argued that the request for proposal was incomplete by failing to include provisions for training, employee wages and health benefits.
"It's not a union issue, it's a human issue," he said.
Alderwoman Ellen Moyer, D-Ward 8, questioned whether a clause in the original contract with Park America that stipulated transfer terms still applied. City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said that clause became invalid in 1989 when the contract lapsed.
Several business leaders, including the executive director of the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, urged the finance committee to recommend awarding the contract to Towne Park as quicklyas possible. When the council first delayed the contract, they complained that bowing to union pressure would set a bad precedent.
"I think it's not at the 11th hour, it's past that now," said chamber director Penny Chandler.
Jerry South, president of Towne Park, has said he's willing to hire qualified Park America employees. But the workers would take a significant pay cut and lose their benefits.
While the manager for Loews Annapolis Hotel testified on South's behalf, saying the company provided excellent service, a resident of PrinceGeorge Street complained about Towne Park's "poor track record."