DWP Board Caught Speeding on Their Way to Approving the New IBEW Labor Contract

LA WATCHDOG--At a hastily called special meeting on Tuesday, the politically appointed Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved, with very little discussion, a new five year labor agreement between our Department of Water and Power and the IBEW, the union that represents over 90% of DWP’s employees. 


This new agreement calls for raises of between 13% and 22% over the next five years, depending on the rate of inflation.  There is also a 4% kicker for lineman as well as an increase in overtime payments for selected employees.  

The new contract also allows for annual performance reviews for all employees.   

The contract also calls for the merger of the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, the elimination of DWP’s controversial $4 million annual payment to these institutes, and the funding of the merged entity by IBEW represented employees to the tune of almost $5 million a year.  No mention was made of the $11 million of Ratepayer cash remaining in these two entities.  

According to the Los Angeles Times, City Council President Herb Wesson is planning a full Council vote on June 28.    

But Herb, why the rush?  The new five year contract does not take effect until October 1?   

Why not allow adequate time for a “full and public analysis” of the contract before placing it on the City Council’s agenda?  

Or put another way, what is the City and DWP trying to hide? 

The amendments to the ten existing memorandums of understanding dating from 2003 and 2005 do not give us an understanding of the existing arrangements between the Department and the IBEW.  Nor do these amendments address the benchmarking of the Department’s operations, the efficiency of its workforce, the numerous grievances and restrictive work rules, and the ability of management to appoint supervisors without union approval.    

According to a DWP memo, the annualized cost is $56 million, implying to total cost of $280 million by the end of the contract in 2022.  This includes salary increases of almost $200 million based on cost of living allowances and inflation of 2.9%, but does not give us an understanding of the $80 million related to retention incentives, overtime, Human External Cargo premium (huh?), longevity premiums, and tool allowances or the reduced funding requirements for the Joint Training and Safety Institutes.  

The DWP Board of Commissioners was confused by the average compensation package for DWP employees and questioned my previous estimate of over $210,000.  According to DWP, the average compensation is $136,000.  But Department’s average fails to take into consideration the total cost of salaries ($1.13 billion), overtime ($156 million), and benefits ($812 million) that are part of DWP’s approved budget for 2017-18.  This total of $2.1 billion was allocated to 10,000 employees. However, the budget lists 10,650 employees, a 6.5% increase over the previous year and a 14% increase over the number of active employees covered by the pension plan as of June 30, 2016.  Based on the bloated number of employees, the average is “only” $197,000.  

There are too many unanswered questions about this new contract that will raise wages by a healthy 13% to 22% and how it will impact the Department’s plans to become a more efficient enterprise.  And where is the Ratepayer Advocate’s written analysis of this new contract and its impact on previous contracts?  And where is the outreach to the Ratepayers?   And how does DWP’s compensation arrangements (salaries, overtime, healthcare, and pensions) compare with other regional utilities? 

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized about labor contracts, “the City should allow plenty of time for the public to ask questions and raise concerns before the City Council and Mayor vote on final contracts.” 

So Mayor Eric Garcetti, what about your pledge of an open and transparent Department of Water and Power?  Or was that just another broken campaign promise? 

More on the agreement: 

From the Los Angeles Times 

The DWP's biggest union is in line to get six raises by 2021

June 20, 2017

By David Zahniser and Dakota Smith


DWP contract could spark costly demands from other city unions

June 21, 2017

By David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes and Dakota Smith 


From CityWatch 

Ratepayer Alert: DWP Board Set to Approve New IBEW Labor Agreement

June 19, 2017

By Jack Humphreville


(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.)