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NEWS IN BRIEF: A summary of developments across Los
Angeles County | Official Business

Board Deals Setback to DWP Plan to Cut Jobs

January 27, 1998

Plans by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to lay off hundreds of employees were dealt a setback Monday when the city's Employee Relations Board unanimously ordered a hearing on union charges that DWP officials refused to negotiate over the job cuts.

The Engineers and Architects Assn., the union that represents most of the DWP employees targeted for layoffs, has accused the department of engaging in an unfair labor practice by not negotiating the planned downsizing of the utility.

Instead, DWP officials have only been willing to negotiate the financial terms of a buyout or severance package for department workers who choose to retire early or are laid off.

Despite opposition from the city attorney's office, the Employee Relations Board ordered hearings March 12-13 on the union's charges

Howard Z. Rosen, attorney for the Engineers and Architects, said the union believes that the DWP violated the city's employee relations ordinance by refusing to negotiate on the layoffs. The union also has a court date Thursday on its lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the cutbacks.

The job cuts are part of a plan by DWP General Manager S. David Freeman to prepare the nation's largest municipal utility for competition in the electric power business in California.

Freeman said he was not surprised by the Employee Relations Board decision, but said the key test will come in court Thursday. He said the department will proceed with the layoffs unless the court prevents the DWP from moving ahead.

To survive in a free market for electricity, Freeman has said, the DWP must reduce its work force by 2,000 employees, significantly cut its operating costs, and pay off $4 billion in debt on its power plants.

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