LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employees were paid $77.3 million in overtime and bonus pay alone for the first half of this year, outpacing earnings by other city workers, including firefighters and police officers, according to a searchable database of city workers’ earnings unveiled today by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin.
Speaking outside City Hall, Galperin furnished figures that appear to back the perception DWP workers are some of the highest paid city employees and gives fuel to critics who feel a new labor contract proposed by DWP workers does not go far enough.
“Angelenos deserve the most cost-effective services that the DWP can provide,” Galperin said. “Higher expenses mean higher rates and less money for much-needed infrastructure improvements.”
The database includes six months of DWP employee earnings ending June 30 and shows that extra earnings above base salary pay amounted to $77.3 million during that half-year period, he said.
Thanks to the bonuses and overtime, almost 60 percent of DWP workers are on track to receive annual salaries of $100,000 or more, compared with 33 percent of police and fire department employees and 22 percent of city workers, according to Galperin.
The extra pay can be received for more than 600 reasons, including meal reimbursements, working in hazardous situations or inclement weather and operating special equipment, he said.
Galperin expressed concern that DWP payroll does not go directly to the controller’s office, which oversees payroll books for all other departments, including other proprietary agencies like the airport and harbor departments that are not part of the city’s general operational fund.
“We really are the ones who have control over the payroll for the rest of the city, but when we want that information from the DWP, we have to go ask for it,” Galperin told City News Service.
DWP General Manager Ron Nichols, responding to the controller’s numbers, blamed the utility’s “high overtime” on the city’s “very slow hiring process,” even as about 500 employees retire each year.
“Paying (overtime) is often less expensive than hiring new full-time staff,” he said.
Nichols said the lion’s share of the $144 million the department spent on annual overtime and bonus pay to DWP workers is for construction costs that are subject to “regulatory mandates with specific completion deadlines,” adding that those costs include replacing old water and power infrastructure “to ensure reliable service for our customers.”
The controller’s database is going live just as city leaders are about to hold public hearings on a proposed contract with Department of Water and Power employees. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, has offered to forgo an Oct. 1 cost-of-living increase of up to 4 percent and to pay more into their retirement and health care costs.
Some council members have called the contract “generous” and a “good deal,” while a study by a top city official found it would save the city as much $7.9 billion over the next 30 years.
Independent ratepayer advocate, Fred Pickel, also has endorsed proposal.
Further bolstering the proposed agreement, Councilman Gil Cedillo introduced a motion this week to look into the impact a strike would have on the city.
Cedillo said IBEW members, after offering to give up “millions of dollars,” would feel slighted if city leaders reject IBEW’s proposed deal.
The final say over the proposal may still be with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who wields veto power over City Council decisions and has maintained that the IBEW’s proposal is not good enough .
The controller said he has met with Garcetti to discuss the database, as well as “working cooperatively” with other city officials.
Garcetti said the controller’s findings illustrate “yet another reason why DWP must be reformed.
“This is an important issue and I’m glad Controller Galperin did this investigation,” Garcetti said.
Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou | City News Service