Mesa Water OKs labor pact

Board members for the Mesa Water District approved a new labor agreement this week that will have the district's union membership contributing to its pensions.

The contract for the 32-member employee association stipulates that by December 2017, the employees will contribute 7% of their pay to the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS.

Before that time, the employees will gradually contribute to the pension fund, starting with 1% this year. That amount supplements what the district pays into CalPERS.

Four of the directors approved the agreement in closed session. Director Ethan Temianka was absent.

The agreement also awarded a 3% net salary increase over four years. The union did not receive additional benefits.

Mesa Water officials say the organization has no unfunded pension liabilities and is able to fully fund its employees' retirements.

Though managers and department heads are not in the union, and not subject to the approved labor agreement, the same benefits and terms are generally applied to them, said Mesa Water spokeswoman Noelle Collins.

Members of the board of directors, who are elected, do not receive pensions.

Collins said the recent water rate increase of 15% over five years, beginning in July, was not enacted because of increased employee salaries.

That extra revenue, officials have said, will address rising costs districtwide and the funding of capital improvement projects.

Mesa Water's employee association is represented by the Santa Ana-based Orange County Employees Assn., which represents some 18,000 public employees countywide.

The water district serves Costa Mesa, portions of Newport Beach and some county incorporated areas, such as John Wayne Airport.

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