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Glendale Water & Power supervisors denied pay raise

Action meant to placate powerful union, now in contract negotiations.

April 18, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Amid fears of provoking a strike by an already aggravated union, the City Council on Tuesday declined to increase the pay for some Glendale Water & Power supervisors in exchange for doing work typical of rank-and-file employees.

“The last thing I want to see us have is any kind of a war with [Glendale Water & Power] employees,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

Last week, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 rejected a contract proposal from the city because it would require employees to pay more into their retirement.

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Employees covered by other city bargaining groups, including police and fire, pay a greater share of their retirement costs than utility workers, city officials have said.

On Tuesday, officials requested “specialty pay” worth a combined total of $18,000 to $20,000 for five Glendale Water & Power supervisors who would perform hazardous work typically done by rank-and-file employees in case of an emergency or a staff shortage.

The hazardous work includes using rubber gloves on energized electrical lines, which requires special training, according to a city report.

Council members interpreted “staff shortage” to mean a possible IBEW strike.

Councilman Ara Najarian said he didn't want the IBEW to point to the supervisor pay raise and say, “we never said we were going to strike, but you dared us to.”

Several council members said the timing of the proposal was “terrible.”

“It just puts the council in a very bad situation,” Najarian added.

Glendale Water & Power employee Mike Sagehorn compared the proposal to “strike-breaking tactics.”

Glenn Steiger, general manager of the utility, said it was not unusual for utilities to train supervisors for hazardous work in case of emergencies. According to a city report, the extra training would increase Glendale Water & Power's overall reliability.

Friedman suggested the council review extra training for supervisors after IBEW negotiations are finished.

The council rejected the proposal 4-1, with Councilman Dave Weaver dissenting.

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