Santa Fe ordered to pay furloughed workers for lost wages

Coronavirus New Mexico

A $100 bill with the picture of Ben Franklin (Nexstar, file)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The city of Santa Fe has been ordered to repay its employees for some of their lost wages after hundreds of city workers were furloughed when the coronavirus pandemic began in March, officials said.

The New Mexico Public Employees Labor Relations Board said in a ruling earlier this month that the city had engaged in unfair labor practices by failing to properly notify workers of the furloughs and must now provide compensation, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

It is unclear how much the city is expected to pay. Gil Martinez, vice president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, estimates the cost could be about $1 million.

The ruling came after a city workers union complaint last year argued that the lowest-paid employees suffered the biggest hits from furloughs. The city in April approved a plan to initiate four-hour-a-week furloughs for 868 workers and 16-hour weekly furloughs for 180 others until the end of June.

The board previously ruled in September that the city violated labor relations practices but didn’t order financial damages to the employees, prompting the union to appeal.

“Everyone is thrilled,” Martinez said. “They are still not going to believe it until they see it.”

Assistant City Attorney Christopher Ryan declined to comment on the decision.

“Once an order is issued by the Board, the City will evaluate it internally to determine next steps to include discussions on settling the remaining issue and whether and when to appeal the matter to District Court,” the city attorney’s office said in a statement.

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