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JUDGE ORDERS TALKS ON 'LIVING WAGE LAW'

A judge is giving the two sides involved in a legal fight over allegations that the city has failed to implement a "living wage law" two months to try to resolve their differences.

State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers met privately last week with city attorneys and representatives from groups that accuse Buffalo of dragging its feet in implementing a law passed two years ago.

The law, which was supposed to take effect in July 2000, mandates higher hourly wages than required by the federal minimum wage for the lowest-paid private employees who work under contracts with the city. The minimums apply to vendors with city contracts exceeding $50,000. Companies must pay their employees at least $7.15 an hour this year, or $8.15 if they don't offer health benefits. The minimum will increase to $8.08 next year, or $9.08 without health coverage.

Citizen Action and the Coalition for Economic Justice have charged that the city has done virtually nothing to implement the law. City officials have said Buffalo doesn't have enough manpower to monitor compliance.

Following a private meeting with Sconiers, officials announced that the two sides will spend the next seven weeks trying to agree on how the new rules should be implemented and monitored.

"I trust you will work in good faith to try to resolve this matter," Sconiers said.

The judge will meet with attorneys again Dec. 6. Officials said a consent order could be issued later this year that details the terms of a prospective settlement.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Darryl McPherson said the city will "make every attempt" to meet the timeline, but he stopped short of giving any guarantees.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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