The city of Santa Fe and the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are on a path to striking a settlement deal in their latest dispute.

Representatives from both parties met for a settlement conference Tuesday in AFSCME Local 3999’s complaint to the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board over a city contract with an outside firms to provide on-call weed removal services. The union brought the complaint in October.

The union contends that under language in its contract, the city should have reached out to the union and attempted to hire people to fill vacant union positions for the work before seeking the outside contract. The city says it has hired contract workers for a decade, and the case was the first time the union took issue with the strategy.

While terms of an agreement are still being ironed out, a draft shows the city would follow the union contract by notifying the union at least 30 days prior to the use of services under a work contract.

The city also would be required to demonstrate its own workers don’t have the necessary skills to complete the work and that the contract would save money, according to the draft settlement.

City officials declined to comment on any potential agreement, stating the city was still in negotiations with the union.

While the potential settlement pertains mainly to previous weed removal contracts, union Vice President Gil Martinez said an agreement should be seen as setting the norm for the use of outside workforce contracts in the future.

“What it spells out is what the contract says,” Martinez said. “They just need to follow the contract, bottom line.”

Labor board hearing officer Thomas Griego noted at an April 12 hearing on the complaint it was better for both sides to hash out a settlement as opposed to having the board issue a ruling.

“A negotiated agreement that is acceptable to both parties is going to make both of you far happier than me imposing a solution in this instance,” Griego said.

A finalized settlement would close the books on the second of two labor board cases between the city and the union.

The two parties are still negotiating a settlement related to employee back pay after the board ruled the city violated labor practices by failing to properly notify workers of pandemic-related employee furloughs that began in April.

The board made a decision in that case in September but declined at the time to rule the city was required to compensate workers. The union appealed, and the board decided in January the city should pay workers for lost wages.

How much the city owes the union is still in negotiation.

A hearing was held last month on the matter, but union attorneys argued Local 3999 didn’t have enough city data to bring forward a figure for how much the city should pay.

Union officials previously had put the price tag close to

$1 million.

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