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Garcetti appeals to public for support in DWP contract struggle

August 19, 2013|By David Zahniser

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took his message on Department of Water and Power salary negotiations directly to neighborhood council leaders on Monday evening, telling activists that they should make their feelings known to the City Council.

Appearing before Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, a group consisting of activists from across the city, Garcetti said he remains dissatisfied with the proposed four-year agreement. He told the crowd he fears that if the pact is approved without additional changes, city leaders will not be able to undo some of the utility's costly and inefficient work rules over the next four years.

"I don't want us to say two years from now, we rushed a deal through and we don't have the power to change those things," Garcetti told the audience of roughly 75 at City Hall.

Council members have praised the agreement's major deal points and begun worrying publicly that the proposed talks could collapse if city leaders press for significant additional concessions. With that debate as a backdrop, Garcetti unveiled an online petition Monday titled "Fix DWP!" calling on Angelenos to support him as he attempts to end "secret deals on costly work rules and perks."

"You can be the bulwark," he told the City Hall gathering. "You each not only have a mayor, but you each have council members, and they must hear your voice."

Backers of the proposed salary agreement say that it will save $4 billion over 30 years, adjusted for inflation, in large part by reducing projected pension costs. Under the deal, DWP employees would go three years without raises, followed by a salary increase of up to 4% in 2016. Future DWP employees would get retirement benefits that are less lucrative than those promised to existing workers.

Hours before Garcetti spoke, three council members from the San Fernando Valley said the city needs a deal within weeks to prevent a 2% pay increase from going into effect in October. “If we can avoid that [raise], I think that’s a big win for ratepayers,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian.

The city's budget analysts contend that as much as a third of the DWP's workforce could retire in the next four years, allowing for more than 2,000 new workers to be hired under a less expensive pension plan.

Garcetti has acknowledged the proposed agreement contains pension savings. But he criticized the size of a raise planned for DWP workers in 2016, which would range from 0% to 4%, depending on inflation.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which represents DWP workers, and its afiliates spent $2 million to defeat Garcetti in the May election. In recent days, the union has argued publicly that the proposed salary agreement will create "pension sustainability and affordable rates for DWP customers."

Garcetti said he would have pursued additional concessions regardless of the union's campaign activities.

"This is not about politics for me and this is not about personality," he told the group. "This is about doing what is right and what I was elected to do: to reform the Department of Water and Power and to reform this city."

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Twitter: twitter.com/davidzahniser

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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