Politics, government and public life for Southern California

City Hall prepares for public hearing on DWP contract

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The Los Angeles City Council is preparing this week for a public hearing on a labor agreement that will carry the Department of Water and Power through 2017. 

Council President Herb Wesson announced last week that the Budget and Finance Committee would hold a joint session with the Energy and Environment Committee to vet a contract for more than 8,200 DWP employees.

The current agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 does not expire until next year, but members are expected to receive a cost-of-living adjustment on Oct. 1. That pay increase could be as much as four percent. City leaders are hoping a new agreement may push those raises to 2016. 

"Given the fact that the pay increase is coming down the pipe quickly, I think it's important that we act in time to be able to preserve the option of postponing or avoiding that pay increase," said Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of Budget and Finance. 

The Second District representative cited the enormity of this contract as a reason for taking the unusual step of discussing a labor contract in public. For the past 16-to-18 months, details of the proposed contract have been kept private by the Executive Employee Relations Committee. 

"This is a very significant decision for this council and the mayor to make," Krekorian said. "It's going to impact pension liabilities, it's going to impact the pay scale, it's going to impact the stability of the DWP workforce and the city's workforce for years to come." 

In addition to possibly delaying pay bumps, the proposed contract would create a new pension tier, require employees to pay toward their own health care, and lower the starting salaries for 28 job classifications. Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to see more concessions from the union. What those concessions may be, however, remain unclear. 

"I've had some conversations with the mayor, but I don't know that they've been to that point of specificity," Krekorian said. 

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