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L.A. council unanimously approves raises for DWP employees

December 11, 2009 |  2:12 pm
A five-year package of pay raises for employees of the Department and Water and Power sailed through the Los Angeles City Council today on a unanimous vote.

Council members agreed to give a 3.25% increase this year and four consecutive raises ranging from 2% to 4%, depending on inflation.

The agreement was negotiated in a year that police will receive no raises and other civilian workers are experiencing pay cuts between December and June.

The agreement drew fire from Jack Humphreville, a DWP critic who said it was unfair for the utility’s employees to get raises when others civilian workers face such sacrifices.

“Our city workers are getting sliced and diced,” Humphreville said.

The DWP’s interim general manager, S. David Freeman, said a five-year contract would provide stability in the agency’s workforce. He also argued that the utility is different from other city departments because it has to compete with private, investor-owned Southern California Edison.
“I understand this is a difficult decision for everyone involved,” he told council members. “But let me point out that the DWP is a business run by the city, and we have to pay a competitive price for labor.”

Representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents 8,648 DWP employees, have argued that the DWP already helps the city budget by providing more than $200 million each year to the general fund, which pays for police, firefighters and other services. Meanwhile, Council President Eric Garcetti said that city civilian employees would see a raise of nearly 6% in 2011.

DWP Chief Financial Officer Jeffery Peltola said the agreement would save the utility $360 million, in part because the agency previously expected the raises to be higher between 2010 and 2014. With the IBEW contract scheduled to expire in 2010, those raises were not guaranteed.

Peltola also said the utility managed to save money by turning the first-year increase into a cash payment that will not add to the base salary of the workforce. As a result, it will not boost the city's pension costs.

-- David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall
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