City needs upbeat drive to attract NFLThe writer is...

the Forum

November 04, 1993

City needs upbeat drive to attract NFL

The writer is athletic director for Hereford High School. Your Oct. 21 article on the labor consultant hired by Baltimore City omitted some interesting details.

Yes, it's true that Hays Management Consultant was awarded the contract by the Board of Estimates for $125,000. The award allows it to negotiate, together with the labor commissioner, against the fire fighters, fire officers and Fraternal Order of Police.

What was omitted is that because the group is from "out of town," it will receive expenses for travel, lodging, meals, etc. (I am not sure what six months of expenses will cost, but I would guess another $15,000-$25,000 would be a conservative estimate.)

Now $150,000 in the city's billion-dollar budget should not normally draw much attention, unless the money could be put to better use.

I am sure the Fire Department could use it. It is still riding 50 percent of engine companies with three men, instead of the nationally recognized safe standard of four.

No one would deny the overworked Police Department an extra $150,000 to help it cope with crime.

Education: how many text books or computers would $150,000 buy? How many potholes could be fixed by the Department of Public Works for $150,000?

The board also failed to state the real purpose of hiring the Hays group.

Because fire and police unions bargain first, they set the tone for the rest of the city's negotiations. The sole intent of the consultant is to keep money and benefits out of city employees' pockets and to defeat the fire fighters in arbitration, should it come to that.

I have sat across the bargaining table with the current labor commissioner, Melvin Harris, and many of the past commissioners. I can assure you that Mr. Harris and his staff are more than competent to handle the task.

The union official in me takes the hiring of an outside consultant as a sort of acknowledgment of our negotiating skills, while the city taxpayer side of me is puzzled. Puzzled not only because of the monetary issue, but because the city doesn't abide by the same rule it imposes on its employees.

The City Council this year passed a residency requirement for new hires, saying employees who live in the city are more "sensitive to issues in the city."

Then the city turns around and hires an outside firm that has no knowledge of the past labor history of the groups -- or what the employees have gone through economically in the past couple of years.

Rich Schluderberg

Baltimore

The writer is first vice president, Baltimore Fire Fighters Local 734.

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