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L.A. city workers throw their support behind proposed contract

A coalition of unions representing more than 20,000 Los Angeles city employees has announced that its members overwhelmingly voted to approve a new labor contract.

Union officials said they had boosted pay, resisted several key concessions sought by the city and secured a commitment to hire thousands of workers to help restore city services battered during the economic downturn.

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The anticipated hiring means "the services that the residents of this city expect to get will start to be provided at the level that they deserve," said Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721.

Schoonover and other union officials said the city had set a goal of hiring 5,000 workers in the next few years. But that number will include filling vacancies that occur as employees retire.

Cheryl Parisi, chair of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, said the city will create a committee to assess where more hiring is needed and help local residents train for and access those city jobs. "This is not only a contract with city workers — it's a contract with our communities," Parisi said.

The proposed agreement would extend through June 2018. Unions in the coalition represent tree trimmers, librarians, trash truck drivers and other workers who are not police officers, firefighters or utility workers.

The deal delays raises until summer 2017, a key point in the negotiations because coalition members previously received a nearly 25% raise over seven years.

Union members will not face any added out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare premiums, despite a public push by Mayor Eric Garcetti to make employees bear more of those costs.

As part of the agreement, the City Council would abandon a hotly contested measure approved three years ago scaling back pension benefits for employees hired since July 2013. Instead, the agreement restores pension benefits for those employees, but reduces retirement payments for new workers beginning next year.

The costs of the pension changes aren't yet clear. Parisi said an independent analysis of those costs is underway and will be presented to lawmakers before they vote on the deal.

The agreement approved by union members doesn't alter the injury leave payments workers can receive, something Garcetti had sought to curb alleged abuses of the system.

The proposed contract is expected to go before the City Council next month. It follows more than a year of bargaining punctuated by protests outside City Hall. City officials announced they had reached a tentative deal with the union coalition last month.

Follow @latimesemily for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall

Times staff writers David Zahniser and Peter Jamison contributed to this report.

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