Mayor names new city labor commissioner

March 05, 2001|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley has chosen a labor negotiator from Washington state to serve as city labor commissioner.

Denise F. Gregory will arrive as tensions between the city and its unions are high. The city has been cracking down on high absenteeism among its 16,000 workers, and a budget shortfall might result in job cuts.

Gregory will be introduced tonight to the City Council, which must approve her appointment. She is to start the job tomorrow.

Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. said Gregory must find ways to cooperate with unions despite the financial crises the city faces.

"We can improve our relations with our unions," Harris said yesterday. "I'm not sure we're doing a great job with that."

In recent weeks, O'Malley has mentioned layoffs as a possible response to the $10 million shortfall the city faces in this year's budget and greater shortfalls that are expected next year. O'Malley and members of his administration have also said they hope to gain concessions from unions to make up some of the shortage.

Gregory will face the task of negotiating a new contract with the City Union of Baltimore, which represents 5,000 workers. Last week, the city settled its most troublesome contract, reaching a two-year agreement with two firefighters unions. Other union contracts expire June 30.

Gregory is a graduate of Millersville University in Pennsylvania, and received a master's degree in industrial and labor relations from West Virginia University. She has worked in the governor's office and with the state Department of Labor in Delaware, and since 1997 has been a labor relations specialist with Community Transit, the public transportation provider for Snohomish County, Wash., north of Seattle.

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