LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Union workers at the Department of Water and Power will begin voting this weekend on a new labor contract that pushes a scheduled pay raise to 2016, labor officials said today.
Ballots are on their way to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which represents about 8,200 workers, the vast majority of employees at the city-owned water and electricity company.
IBEW officials did not provide an exact date for when the ballots would be due, but said members must return the ballots some time later this month.
DWP workers are scheduled to get a cost-of-living raise, about 2 percent, after the end of this month on Oct. 1. The new agreement would delay that increase to 2016.
When the new labor pact was first reached in August, city leaders estimated it would take until the end of this week or next week for the union to finish ratifying the agreement.
With pay for DWP jobs typically higher than that of other city jobs, city leaders have sought a way to close the salary disparity, which some officials have said makes it difficult for city departments to retain employees eager to transfer to the DWP's better-paid workforce.
Top city officials project the new labor pact would save DWP $6.1 billion over three decades and help control the cost of utility rates, which are expected to go up in the next three years.
The DWP is a city-owned utility, but is funded through the rates paid by its electricity and water customers. Personnel costs make up more than 20 percent of the DWP's budget.
IBEW's existing contract actually expires in September 2014, but a legal dispute over pension payments sparked talks between city leaders and union representatives well ahead of that date. Settlement talks ultimately offered the city an opportunity to make changes to new workers' pension tiers, lower starting salaries for 34 DWP jobs similar to jobs in other city departments and request other changes.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who previously threatened to veto an earlier version of the new agreement, saying it did not go far enough, last month celebrated the revised terms now being voted on union members. He said the pact ``contains tough amendments that we fought for. It will deliver reform, saving ratepayers money through further salary reductions and clearing the way for changes we need in the future.''
``This contract contains no raises for three years,'' he said. ``The last time DWP workers did not get a raise was 20 years ago.''
If IBEW members ratify the contract, it will return to the City Council and the mayor for final approval before it could go into effect.