Politics, government and public life for Southern California

New details on DWP contract emerge in negotiations

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New details on the future of the Department of Water and Power’s health care and work rules emerged Tuesday as the Los Angeles City Council continued to negotiate a contract with the utility’s union.

The mayor has expressed his desire for more concessions from the union on work rules, and Monday night he took his case to a joint meeting of the city's neighborhood councils. 

"Clearly, there has been important progress," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said in a statement. "We are reviewing the language that's on the table to make sure it achieves Mayor Garcetti's goals on DWP reform."

City Council President Herb Wesson believes a deal is on the horizon.

“We’re getting closer and you saw that movement within the past 48 hours,” said Wesson after emerging from a two-hour council session behind closed doors. “The council is optimistic that there will be a partnership with the mayor. You can feel it in the hair on the back of your neck.”

The L.A. City Council was expected to vote Tuesday on the latest contract terms following the closed session discussion. That did not happen, though another closed session meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

“Did the council ... want to take a vote? Yes," Wesson said. "But there’s still things that you need to iron out and that’s what we’re doing now."

The latest terms of the deal would continue the practice of entirely subsidizing DWP workers’ health care. An earlier proposal would have required active and retired employees to start paying toward health benefits in 2016. The proposal would defer any cost-of-living adjustments until October of 2016, when DWP employees would get a two-to-four percent bump. A previous draft similarly deferred the raises, without a guarantee they would occur at all.

Last week, the Mayor’s office signaled that the DWP’s work rules were a sticking point in the contract. This latest proposal would allow the Executive Employee Relations Committee to renegotiate work rules, compensation, overtime and bonuses at any point during the contract, those changes would still require approval from IBEW members. Examples of work rules could include how many workers are required to complete a job and how sick leave is handled.

All of this comes just one day after the mayor told a group of neighborhood council members he would not “abandon his principles” to get a deal done. His office then posted a petition that asks for public support to “address DWP's costly and secret work rules, which are at the heart of fixing the department, and it must allow DWP reform to continue on an ongoing basis.”

The council president declined to comment on Garcetti’s petition. However, talks between the two offices are still happening.

“The mayor and I have been in constant communication. That will continue," Wesson said. "We had a conversation yesterday. We had texts. I owe him a couple of texts now because I was in closed session and I just could not respond to him.”

Garcetti, an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, is currently serving his annual two-week duty in Southern California. He announced Tuesday that he would switch to inactive status at the end of the year.

Garcetti listed his goals for DWP reform in an email to supporters:

You elected me Mayor to reform DWP, and just six weeks after taking office, your vote is making a difference. Right now, there is a new DWP contract proposal on the table and I want to make sure it delivers real reform to save money for you. 

Will you help me reform DWP?

Here are my goals for DWP:

  • No more secret deals on perks and work rules
  • Ongoing reform beyond this contract
  • Hold the line on raises
  • Achieve pension savings
  • Lower healthcare costs

Our election victory has delivered a DWP contract proposal with significant savings. But it must address DWP's costly and secret work rules, which are at the heart of fixing the department, and it must allow DWP reform to continue on an ongoing basis. 

Join me to reform DWP so it's the best public utility in America.

The right contract is in the best interests of both ratepayers and DWP employees. Together, we can build the city of our dreams and that starts by taking care of the basics, especially our DWP.

Thanks for all you do.

Eric Garcetti

This story has been updated.

[6:55 p.m. : This story was updated to reflect Mayor Eric Garcetti's response.]

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