ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A pair of city councilors are proposing sick leave and pay hikes for workers in Albuquerque while the public health orders are in effect. But, critics are saying those ideas put too much strain on businesses that are already hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first bill would give extra pay to essential workers, who can’t work at home, at businesses that have 50 or more employees. For employees that make up to $15/hr, they would get an extra $30 for under a four-hour shift, $60 for any four to eight-hour shift, and $75 for any shift over eight hours. People in the community said they are on board with this possible change.
“I would think it would be a good idea because they’re all taking a chance,” John Vale, an Albuquerque resident, said.
“There’s probably quite a bit of a wage gap between, like, the people who are in charge in the sort of like corporate, managerial positions that are getting paid a lot more than the people that are out there being exposed to dangerous things, putting their own lives at risk. So, I think that they should be willing to step up and be willing to pay them what they deserve,” Colton hardy, another Albuquerque resident, said.
The second bill introduced would require businesses within city limits to give full-time employees 80 hours of sick pay through the end of the year in case they get sick or have to care for a sick family member. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce is pushing back on all three bills but said this sick leave bill is the most concerning for them.
“And it’s also, at the end of the day, the most expensive one at a time when small business is just trying to keep businesses together with band-aids and super glue,” Terri Cole, President and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said. “The idea that we would mandate additional expenses on business and sort of take away their decisions for their own compensations, decisions that they make for their employees, is just wrong.”
Cole said the chamber isn’t against sick leave but supports a different option. “We support a reasonable paid-sick leave program. One that allows for flexibility and exempts the real small businesses that simply can’t afford this kind of benefit,” she said.
The third bill being introduced would require all businesses in city limits to provide personal protective equipment to employees who are interacting with co-workers or the public during the pandemic. The bill states the city is considering adjusting the city’s 2020 budget to help provide PPE to small businesses.
The pay and sick leave bills would only apply to employees who have to share a workplace with co-workers or are exposed to the public. All three proposed bills are sponsored by councilor Isaac Benton and councilor Lan Sena and are being heard by the council on June 29.