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DWP contract talks will come out from behind closed doors

City Council Los Angeles

Mae Ryan/KPCC

L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson sent a letter Thursday to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the union representing DWP workers, telling them he plans to hold public hearings on labor negotiations.

In an unusual move, the president of the Los Angeles City Council took steps Thursday to move private contract negotiations with the Department of Water and Power's powerful union into the public sphere. 

Council President Herb Wesson sent a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti and Brian d'Arcy of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, announcing plans to hold public hearings on a proposed contract for more than 8,200 DWP employees.

The union's current contract does not expire until fall of 2014, but city leaders hope to have a deal in place by the end of September that would delay pay raises in the current contract that would take effect on Oct. 1. Adding to the time crunch is a lawsuit between the city and utility's two pension funds; the proposed contract would settle that case. 

"I do believe that there are very substantive things on the table where it relates to the IBEW contract," Wesson told reporters in his fourth floor office at City Hall. "I also believe that the Mayor's Office has some legitimate concerns, so I think it's really time that we as a council, an equal partner in this whole discussion, get involved." 

Representatives for the Mayor's Office and IBEW were not immediately available to comment on the hearings.

Up until now, negotiations have been handled by members of the Executive Employee Relations Committee — Garcetti, Wesson, and Councilmen Paul Krekorian, Mitch Englander and Paul Koretz. The mayor has repeatedly said he does not like the salaries, pensions, health care or work rules in the DWP's proposed contract.

The public hearings, which could begin as soon as next week, will be overseen by Krekorian and Felipe Fuentes, chairs of, respectively, the Budget and Finance and Energy and Environment committees. 

The deal on the table, according to a report to the Executive Employee Relations Committee, would:

  • delay cost-of-living adjustments for DWP workers from 2013 to 2016
  • require employees to start contributing toward their health care
  • reduce starting salaries for 28 jobs
  • force new employees to pay more toward retirement with a new pension tier

The council president said he is not frustrated by how the Mayor's office has handled the contract process.

“I believed that Eric was the right man for [the mayor's] job," Wesson said. "He was my friend, he is my friend. I just refuse to give up until we have a real discussion – all of us." 

Asked whether representatives from the Mayor's Office would be invited to the hearings, Wesson said, "I would imagine."

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