The Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously backed a five-year plan to give more than 8,000 utility workers raises and increase the starting salary for electrical linemen.
The board approved the terms of a labor agreement that would begin this October and last until September 2022.
The proposal would increase individual wages of Los Angeles Department of Water employees between nearly 13.2 percent and 22.3 percent over a five-year span, depending on inflation.
The contract actually starts with a couple of raises in the first year, with a 3 percent boost in October, followed soon after by a 1.5 percent increase in December. In October of each of the four years thereafter, from 2018 until 2021, the raises would be based on inflation, but would go no lower than 2 percent and no higher than 4 percent.
The contract also includes increases to the starting pay of electrical distribution mechanics and their supervisors, often referred to as linemen. The entry-level wages would climb 2 percent in each of the next two years, for a total 4 percent increase by October 2018.
The proposed agreement still needs approval by the City Council.
Matt Szabo, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the city’s goal is to retain workers in an industry where private utilities tend to offer higher salaries and more generous benefits packages.
The proposed increase to starting pay for linemen — whom Szabo called “some of our most highly trained workers” — responds to a high rate of people leaving DWP for such companies as Southern California Edison, he said.
“We have over the last several years been hemorrhaging our electrical distribution mechanics to investor-owned utilities like Edison, and so our objective was to try … to make pay more competitive with the privately owned competitors to DWP,” Szabo said.
Szabo said the Department of Water and Power spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to train such workers.
Los Angeles city leaders in 2016 approved five years of water and power rate hikes, which officials said would pay for aging water pipes and help the utility keep up with state-required environmental upgrades.
Szabo said the labor proposal “will not lead to any additional rate hikes.”
The cost of the total labor package to ratepayers is about $56 million annualized over the five years of the agreement, according to a DWP staff report.