This week, more than two years after engaging in good-faith contract talks with the L.A.-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, the union representing employees of Glendale Water & Power, the city of Glendale pulled the plug on negotiations and imposed a modest pay cut on the workers.
The decision to reduce the GWP workers' pay by 1.75% and require them to temporarily pay more for their health insurance was a bold stance for the city, as other municipalities in the Los Angeles area have been far too timid while dealing with the IBEW.
Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa, wisely seeing that the matter must be resolved, pushed to impose the new labor contract with or without the union's buy-in this week. He received the solid backing of the City Council — with one abstention, that of newly-seated Zareh Sinanyan, who said he would sit out the vote because he had not been involved in the protracted negotiations.
The new contract for 2012-13, which takes effect on Thursday, will last through this fiscal year, which ends June 30. But according to a city spokesman, it will stay in effect until another contract is agreed upon.
Prior to the point in the drawn-out talks last year when an impasse was declared, and at a time when the city was facing a $15.4-million budget deficit, the IBEW sought 4% cost-of-living raises retroactive to July 1, 2011, as well as enhancements in specialty pay. It scaled back its demands but drew the line at the city's requirement that the workers pay 1.75% toward their pensions. At a time when pension reform is at the top of mind for Glendale and other cities, it was a costly error in judgment on the part of the union.
While this week's action by the City Council may sting those who did not get the contract they were seeking, it was the only fiscally sound thing to do.