Chronicle: At the DWP, the offers are more and more advantageous

More than once over the years when people have complained about the difficulty of surviving in a low wage economy with such crushing healthcare costs, I have recommended that they apply for a job in the water department. and Los Angeles Electricity.

I was reminded a few days ago when the terms of the new DWP contract were revealed that this was still good advice. And there’s more good news: the utility, never far from scandal, is hiring.

In an article by Dakota Smith, The Times reported that Mayor Eric Garcetti backed a handsome pay raise for water and electric workers after an 11-0 vote by the Los Angeles City Council.

The strong points:

About 10,000 workers at the almighty campaign donation factory known as Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will get raises ranging from 10% to 24% over four years.

All workers will receive 3% Christmas stockings as a cash bonus.

In addition to these increases, 800 utility workers will get an additional set of increases over the four years ranging from 20% to 41%. In one scenario, wages for some workers could increase by up to 74%.

And again, despite years of promises by Garcetti and others to require employee health contributions, going to the doctor or hospital will continue to be virtually free for the vast majority of workers.

A spokesperson for Garcetti said the mayor is confident “this contract will put the city in a strong position to maintain and attract a skilled workforce to provide our most critical city services.”

But it was the same mayor who said in 2013, after beating IBEW-backed candidate Wendy Greuel, that DWP workers should start contributing to their health costs. The mayor then suspended a contract and won major concessions, but he let himself go demanding health care contributions.

The same thing happened in the 2017 contract, when nice raises were given, but free health care remained in place. So during Garcetti’s reign as mayor, it’s the first strike in 2013, the second strike in 2017, and now the third strike.

“It’s outrageous,” Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog said of the new deal.

“The worst thing about this deal,” said former LA city official Rick Cole, is that other unions in the city “will want to use it as a benchmark, and the city is about to suffer a decline in revenue from the recession”.

To be fair, health care should be free or at least more affordable for everyone. But that’s a story for another time.

And I have to say, not everyone thinks this new DWP contract is out of order. One reason is the claim that pay is higher in other public services, some of which have lured in and poached DWP employees with better deals. That’s what Garcetti meant when he said this contract will “retain and attract a skilled workforce.”

A DWP spokesman, citing its bosses, said that of the 150 power line workers trained over the past five years, 70 left because “our wages were not competitive”. The DWP says hundreds of vacancies exist due to hiring difficulties, leading to increased overtime costs to maintain operations.

Meanwhile, taxpayers’ attorney Fred Pickel told me he supports the new contract, based in part on his research into compensation packages offered by competing utilities. Pickel said the DWP leads the pack in health care coverage, but when you factor in salaries, pensions and other benefits, the DWP’s position diminishes.

In the charts provided by Pickel, “LADWP sits around the median” of the average total compensation at $169,000, well below the high of $230,000 and above the low of $118,000.

In base pay alone, DWP caretakers earn $60,000, painters earn $90,000, steam plant mechanics earn $107,000, water utility superintendents earn $166,000, and electrical services earn $228,000.

But all these numbers, which are not bad at the start, will increase with the new contract. And health care will still be virtually free, for those who choose Kaiser, or almost for those who choose other plans.

Given the rising costs of staff and retirees, which will come as LADWP faces green energy costs that will run into the tens of billions of dollars, one would think there would have been a solid public audit. of this new contract, which will cost between $55 million and $111.8 million per year.

Doubters should have been given the opportunity to grill DWP officials and demand specific examples of poaching. They should have been able to wonder if a utility that had a comically egregious over-billing fiasco not so long ago that saw a corrupt recent CEO get sent to jail could be trusted to competently negotiated the new contract.

Another fair question: how long can it be before taxpayers – who have to bear both their own health costs and those of DWP employees – pay more to turn on their lights and taps.

But as Smith reported, the city council – limping in the wake of the recent racism scandal – chose not to hold a public hearing on the new salary package, just as it stepped down in 2017. And the Outgoing board member Paul Koretz, who leads the staff committee who may have challenged the deal, declined to comment.

“It’s not about keeping employees for the city,” Court said. “This is a reward for one of the most connected unions in the city and a parting gift from politicians who have nothing to lose.”

The IBEW political wing made a donation during the recent election cycle to board member Curren Price and new board members Traci Park and Tim McOsker. He also injected more than $1.4 million into a political action committee to support Mayor-elect Karen Bass.

You know the saying. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you’re looking for a job with good pay and benefits primo, run, don’t walk, to the nearest DWP recruiting office.

Steve.lopez@latimes.com


Los Angeles Times

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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