GWP workers vie for early retirement option

Glendale Water & Power workers, upset that they are ineligible for an early retirement program slated to save the city $9 million, urged the City Council to give them the incentive as well.

Utility workers aligned with the city's newest union, which has been at odds with City Hall even before it became an official bargaining group, do not have a contract as yet, and cannot apply for the program. Under the slimmed-down budget approved by the City Council Tuesday, all workers except those represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, public safety personnel and executives are eligible.

“The city and the IBEW with the vast amounts of resources at their disposal can't come to terms,” said Phil Augustinus, a Grayson Power Plant mechanic, about three hours into the meeting.

“To be singled out of this opportunity is not only unfair, it also comes with an added cruel twist of disrespect to [my] loyal, faithful, long service and devotion of duty, these very words written and presented to me on my 30-year service award,” he said.

The early retirements are expected close a large percentage of the $15.4 million budget shortfall officials have been tackling since May in more than 20 hours of public meetings.

To reach a balanced General Fund budget of $167 million, the city may also have to lay off between 12 and 16 employees, but that number could reach up to 37. The General Fund pays for libraries, parks and other general services.

City Manager Scott Ochoa said the city offered the early retirements to IBEW with no strings attached, but the union, which has led protests outside City Hall, has yet to accept the deal.

“If the union says yes, it's a done deal,” said Councilman Rafi Manoukian. “There's no ‘no' on our part.”

But IBEW spokesman Gus Corona, in a phone interview Wednesday, said “It's disingenuous on their part for them to say it's us.”

The union had planned to meet with the city regarding the retirement incentives in May, but before they did, Ochoa sent a memo to staff describing the early retirements and layoff possibilities. Corona said speaking directly to IBEW members about pay and benefits — instead of going through union executives — is an unfair labor practice.

City officials disagree, but the union wants Glendale to admit to wrongdoing before discussing the retirement plan. Both sides said they're not interested in giving in.

Both Corona and Human Resources Director Matt Doyle said as a result, employees will suffer.

About 110 employees, who are at least 50 years old and have worked for the city for at least five years, are expected to take advantage of the early retirement option and leave by Sept. 1, Ochoa said. The deadline to sign up is July 6.

In addition to regular retirement benefits, eligible employees could get one-twelfth of 5% of their final salary on a monthly basis. For example, under one option, a worker making $60,000 a year would get an extra $250 per month in lifetime benefits.

Public safety personnel were also blocked from the early retirements to prevent a mass exodus as their positions are difficult to fill.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World