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LA City Council approves new DWP contract; union to vote next

August 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles City Council signed off Friday on a new contract agreement between the city and unionized workers at the DWP. But does the new deal go far enough in cutting labor costs and reducing rate increases for consumers?

The vote was unanimous as the City Council moved one step closer to a new contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's IBEW union. The tentative agreement includes no raises for three years.

"Any way you measure this, this is a dramatic degree of savings for the ratepayers," said Councilman Paul Krekorian.

"When you say we are going to have a savings, are we really having a savings or are we really having a reduced rate hike? And it's really a reduced rate hike -- we're getting the rate hike anyway," said West L.A. Neighborhood Council Jay Handal.

Handal is a budget watchdog and a member of the West L.A. Neighborhood Council. He is critical of the agreement especially when it comes to reforming the union's health care plan. While the union gives up a 2 percent raise that was due to them in October. Handal says the employees will still benefit from that money.

"The savings we were taking in the 2 percent is now going to pay for the health care that they're not paying for at all," said Handal.

"At least now we have a framework though for contribution by the employees to their health care program," said Krekorian. "It doesn't go as far as I would like it to go. Certainly our goal should be to have health care contributions broadly across all sectors of the workforce."

The other critical issue: work rules and side agreements that result in huge overtime pay for many DWP employees. The mayor said Thursday the new contract allows the city to adjust those rules to save money.

"The only way this contract works is if the work rules really are dug into, and there are substantial changes. Otherwise it's all fluff," said Handal.

With Friday's vote, the deal goes back to the city's negotiators to get it finalized.

Meanwhile the IBEW union members will also have to vote on the contract. That is expected to take two weeks.


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