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Los Angeles DWP workers to get pay raise

October 30, 2009 |  5:34 pm
Even as police officers go without raises in each of the next two years, the Los Angeles City Council moved ahead with a plan today to give employees of the Department of Water and Power raises ranging from 2% to 4% in each of the next five years.

Three hours after it approved a two-year contract with the Police Protective League that offers zero pay increases, the council forwarded a package of five raises to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.

Asked to explain the deal, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official, said: “I’m not talking about the IBEW” – a reference to the DWP’s union.

But Brian D’Arcy, business manager for the electrical workers’ union, said the agreement would give his members a 3.25% raise this year and raises of 2% to 4% in each the following four years, depending on inflation.

The plan reflects the clout wielded by D’Arcy, who repeatedly voiced his displeasure with the DWP former general manger, H. David Nahai, in the months before his departure. D’Arcy said his members gave up a key concession that will, over time, save the utility hundreds of millions of dollars. The union was already in line for a 3.25% raise this year but agreed to take the money in a way that will not apply to the utility’s pension system, he said.

The council gave the go-ahead to the DWP contract hours after it approved a separate agreement that hands a 4.4% pay cut to the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents 22,000 civilian employees, over the next eight months.

D’Arcy said the DWP, which helps subsidize the city’s overall budget, is not in the same “economic strife” as the rest of the city. He also argued that the city, when bargaining with other civilian unions, has fallen prey to “boom and bust negotiations."

“They’ve been having a Mardi Gras over there the past three years,” D'Arcy said.

Paul Weber, president of the Police Protective League, said he did not know the specifics of the DWP pay proposal but said police officers cannot negotiate the same way as utility workers.

“Unlike us, they have the ability to strike,” Weber said. “Number two, when they go to management, management has the option of increasing the utility bills. We don’t have that ability.”

-- David Zahniser