City employees receive another pay raise for the new year

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for city-hall-with-palms.jpgAn automatic increase built into the contract for about 13,000 City Hall workers delivered a 5.5 percent raise on January 1, "the final piece of a salary agreement that became a major financial burden during the recent economic downturn," writes David Zahniser in the LA Times. "The pay hike means a majority of workers with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents non-public-safety employees such as clerks, gardeners and mechanics, have received increases totaling 24.5% since 2007, according to city budget officials." These are the raises approved by the City Council that became a political controversy during the Antonio Villaraigosa years at City Hall. They promise to be a bit of hot potato for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who voted for the raises when he was on the council and who faces a looming budget deficit.

Wednesday's raise sets the stage for a new round of salary talks between city leaders and the coalition, whose contract expires this summer. Those negotiations will pose a major test for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who campaigned as a leader who would show independence from special interests and City Hall unions.

The coalition — made up of six separate unions — backed Garcetti's opponent, former City Controller Wendy Greuel, in last year's mayoral election.

In April, as he unveiled his final budget plan, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called on the coalition to give up the 5.5% raise, saying such a move would save the city $108 million during the current fiscal year. Coalition leaders refused to budge on the Jan. 1 pay increase, saying money for the raise was available in a special fund in Villaraigosa's budget. City Council members, including Garcetti, soon acknowledged that city leaders had no leverage to force such a concession, because the raise was part of a binding agreement backed by Villaraigosa and elected officials.

"The city is legally obligated to honor previously negotiated contracts," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said this week. "Mayor Garcetti will negotiate new contracts that save money and bring reform."

And this from the New Year's break: Eric Garcetti brings change in style to L.A. mayor’s job, by Rick Orlov in the Daily News.

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