DWP Labor Contract: Arrogance Breeds Lack of Transparency

LA WATCHDOG

LA WATCHDOG--On Monday afternoon of June 19, 2017, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners sent us a notice that they were holding a Special Meeting on the following day, Tuesday, June 20, at 11:30 in the morning, to approve the new contract between the Department of Water and Power and the IBEW, its domineering union that is led by campaign funding Union Bo$$ Brian d’Arcy.

On Tuesday morning, the Board posted a 103 page, 16,400 word, non-searchable document that outlined the agreement and contained the most recent amendments to the existing contracts that date back to 2005. 

After a brief, pro forma presentation, the politically appointed Board rubber stamped the deal on Tuesday without any real discussion of the economics of the new contract or the impact on the Department’s operations or efficiency.  

On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, the City Council approved the contract in a preordained vote, again without any meaningful discussion.  

Throughout this process, there was no outreach to the Ratepayers, the working slobs who pay the ever increasing DWP bills, despite the fact that negotiations had been going on for months.  

During the past year, there were six meetings of the Executive Employee Relations Committee, the City’s labor board that consists of Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council President Herb Wesson, pension wizards Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz, and Mitch Englander.   

But why include the Ratepayers or the Ratepayers Advocate when City Hall knows best.  They are the smartest guys in the room, and you do not even have to ask them because they will tell you. 

Their arrogance was only strengthens as a result of the recent elections.  

Presidential hopeful Eric Garcetti won over 80% of the vote against a bunch of no name, underfunded candidates.  The City Council incumbents all retained their seats on the horseshoe (also known as the toilet seat).  And the voters passed huge tax increases that will hit Angelenos up for $1.6 billion, the equivalent of a 30% increase in our property taxes or an increase in our sales tax to 11.5%. 

The City also pulled a fast one by settling the class action law suit involving the Transfer Tax.  We will be on the hook to pay the City $242 million next year.  

The City told us that the new contract will cost the Department and Ratepayers “$56 million annualized over the five year” contract.  But this misleading statement translates to a $280 million increase by the fifth year. 

The City told us that this will not result in an increase in the projected base rates.  But how much of the $280 million will be “passed through” to the Ratepayers that cause rates to increase?  

The City told us that this was a “fiscally responsible” contract.  

But this is same gang that is responsible for the City’s budget that is held together by bubblegum and wishful thinking; Structural Deficits despite a $1.2 billion increase in General Fund revenues since Garcetti was elected Mayor; unfunded pension liabilities that are north of $20 billion according to Moody’s, the bond rating agency; and deferred maintenance of at least $10 billion on our streets, sidewalks, parks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure. 

The DWP will no longer be on the hook for the $4 million annual contribution to the controversial Joint Training and Safety Institutes.  But what about the $11 million (or more) in Ratepayer cash that these two entities have in the bank? Will this cash be returned to the Ratepayers or is it another gift of our money to the IBEW?  

So excuse us, the Ratepayers, if we have more than a few concerns.     

In defense of the contract, the Ratepayers Advocate stated that the 13% to 22% increase in wages (70% of which is based on cost of living adjustments) was in a “reasonable range.”  But he also recommended that the Department continue with the benchmarking the efficiency of the Department’s operations and compensation arrangements. 

In addition to the financial terms of the new labor contract, there are also numerous other issues that need to be addressed in an open forum.  

What is the value of the healthcare benefits that employees receive at no cost?  Who administers the plan? Are there any deductibles or co-pays?  And how do they compare to other City plans? 

How do the Department’s compensation packages compare to other regional utilities and the City? 

How does the Department support its belief that the average compensation package is $136,000 when the adopted budget implies an average package of over $210,000? 

How does the Department propose to address the impact of overly restrictive work rules on the efficiency of its operations? 

How does the Department propose to reform its current inefficient and cumbersome grievance process? 

How does the Department propose to conduct annual performance reviews of all of its employees? 

How does the Department propose to appoint supervisors without the interference of the IBEW? 

How does the Department propose to gain more flexibility in hiring and evaluating outside contractors? 

How does the Department propose to retain linemen who continue to leave the Department because of the corrosive work environment imposed by management and the IBEW?  

What is the impact on the DWP’s pension other post-employment benefit plans that are underfunded by $2.8 billion (81% funded)? 

While the approval of this new labor agreement is a “done deal,” the Ratepayers deserve a full and complete explanation of the arrangements between the Department and the IBEW.  

On Saturday, July 1, 2017, the Neighborhood Council DWP Advocacy Committee adopted the following motion supporting increased transparency into the relationship between the Department and the IBEW. 

Whereas the DWP Board of Water and Power Commissions approved the new labor agreement between the Department of Water and Power and IBEW Local 18 at a Special Meeting on Tuesday, June 20, 2017; 

Whereas the Notice of this Special Meeting was not given until Monday, June 19, 2017; 

Whereas the documentation concerning the new labor agreement was not placed on line until the day of the meeting; 

Whereas the City Council approved the new labor agreement on June 28, 2017; 

Whereas DWP, the City Council, and the Mayor did not conduct any outreach to the Neighborhood Councils or the Ratepayers; 

Whereas, the lack of transparency erodes the trust of confidence of Ratepayers and Angelenos in the Department, the City Council, and the Mayor; 

Therefore, the DWP Committee condemns the lack of transparency by DWP, the City Council, and the Mayor; 

Therefore, the DWP Committee calls for a full presentation and discussion on the new labor agreement to the Neighborhood Councils and Ratepayers.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

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