L.A. Council to Review DWP ‘Salary Boosting’ Practices

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, City News Service

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday asked city staff for an accounting of various obscure work rules that allowed Department of Water and Power workers to increase their take-home pay by an average of 16.6 percent above their base salaries.

The motion, approved unanimously by the 15-member council, also asks staff to develop a plan to rein in costs the work rules create.

“This set of issues has enraged the people of Los Angeles, and rightfully so,” according to Councilman Paul Krekorian, who introduced the motion with council members Felipe Fuentes and Mitch Englander.

“The fact that there are so many of these side agreements and work rules the people of Los Angeles are not even aware of, that this council has not even been aware of because they haven’t been brought to this council before, is an outrageous situation,” he said.

Fuentes, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee that will hear the staff report in 30 days, said the motion calls for the creation of a “working group process … to identify, categorize and ultimately begin to instruct the City Council, the Department of Water and Power and its commission on how to … hopefully be more cost effective.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti criticized DWP work rules during recent labor negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which represents 92 percent of the DWP workforce. The resulting labor agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the union, includes a provision that would keep the door open for renegotiating work rules over the course of the contract’s four-year term.

Almost 60 percent of DWP workers are on track to take home more than $100,000 in pay by the end of the year thanks to hundreds of categories that allow for overtime, bonuses and other extra pay, according to an analysis by City Controller Ron Galperin, who created a searchable database of DWP and city employee earnings from January through June.

About 86 percent of DWP workers benefited from rules allowing for the extra earnings during the first six months of this year, and overall, DWP workers added an average of 16.6 percent in overtime, bonus and other additional pay to their base salaries, according to Galperin’s study. In

contrast, fire and police employees added an average 9.2 percent to their base salaries during the first six months of the year, while the majority of civilian workers got an average of 1.2 percent in additional pay in the same stretch.

The motion approved by the council Tuesday asks for a report “that identifies all relevant work rules, letter agreements between the DWP and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for review,” as well as description of the process to “develop, implement and change” the work rules or arrangements.

The motion also instructs staff to look into the utility’s “current work practices and agreements that lead to high overtime rates, including overtime associated with the odd hour shifts and outsourcing premiums,” such as a requirement that DWP employees will perform 10 percent of overtime work before contractors could be called in.

Staff is also expected to create a way to “effectively benchmark the DWP’s performance and achieve operational efficiencies in its power, water and joint system operations,” according to the motion.

 

 

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August 29, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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