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DWP workers get pay hikes, but not police

Raises for the utility's employees approved by the L.A. City Council range from 2% to 4% in each of the next five years.

October 31, 2009|David Zahniser

Even as Los Angeles police officers go without raises, the City Council moved ahead with a plan Friday to give employees of the Department of Water and Power pay increases 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 no salary increases, the council forwarded the pay-raise package to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 for ratification.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official, refused to comment on the agreement. But Brian D'Arcy, business manager for the electrical workers' union, said the pact would give his members a 3.25% increase this year and raises of 2% to 4% in each of the next four years, depending on inflation.

D'Arcy is viewed as one of the city's most powerful labor leaders. He repeatedly voiced displeasure with the DWP's former general manager, H. David Nahai, in the months before his departure.

After the vote, D'Arcy argued that his members gave up a key concession that down the road will save the utility hundreds of millions of dollars. The union was in line for a 3.25% pay hike this year but will take the money as a cash payment so that it will not add to the utility's pension burden, he said.

Matt Szabo, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, praised the DWP agreement, saying it "provides the shared sacrifice that the mayor has asked for."

But Doug Epperhart, who serves on the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, called the pact "breathtaking" in such dire financial times.

"It's the disconnect between the world of L.A. city government and the real world we live in," he said.

The council approved the DWP contract hours after it OKd a separate agreement that imposes a 4.4% pay cut on the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents 22,000 civilian employees. The cut will be spread over the next eight months.

D'Arcy said the DWP, which operates independently from the city's overall budget, is not in the same "economic strife" as the rest of the city's operations.

He also argued that city officials, when bargaining with other civilian unions, have fallen prey to "boom and bust negotiations."

"They've been having a Mardi Gras over 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 proposal but said police cannot approach negotiations in the same way as utility workers.

"Unlike us, they have the ability to strike," he said. "No. 2, when they go to management, management has the option of increasing the utility bills."

The DWP provides the city with more than $200 million a year to help balance the budget. Despite that boost, the city has been struggling to eliminate a $405-million shortfall.

Friday's votes on two of the contracts -- one for the police, the other for the coalition -- have managed to reduce the shortfall to $100 million.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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