Engineers, information technology workers and supervisors represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, charged the districts with unfair labor practices in a complaint filed last week.
The workers claim they should have been granted cost-of-living raises starting July 1, even though the union is still in negotiations with management over a new contract.
In the complaint, AFSCME Local 36 says withholding the annual cost-of-living increase represents a unilateral change in the workers’ conditions of employment. They contend the Sanitation Districts must provide the July 1 increase, which is something that has been done annually since 2005.
In the past, workers received cost-of-living adjustments ranging from 0.5 percent to 3 percent. The raise is based on the Consumer Price Index.
Starting July 1, employees in Energy Recovery, Management, Technical Support and White Collar division received increases of 2.75 percent, while employees in the Blue Collar unit received about 3 percent, according to an employee memo from Robert Ferrante, assistant chief engineer and assistant general manager.
However, the districts informed Steve Koffroth, the union representative of the professional unit, that no cost-of-living increases will be given to these employees. In a memo from Jennifer Allen, human resources manager, she wrote: “These units do not have an agreement that would provide for a (cost-of-living adjustment) effective 7/1/17.”
Allen could not be reached Monday.
Mo Bina, a civil engineer and spokesman for the professional employees, wrote in an email that bargaining units still negotiating should not be denied cost-of-living increases. Instead, the districts must “maintain the status quo” of pay and benefits as long as the two sides continue to meet.
“Management is unjustifiably punishing the employees,” he wrote.
Employees in May demonstrated in front of their workplace, the headquarters on Workman Mill Road in North Whittier, one of the first picket lines at the sewage treatment and solid waste agency in nearly 40 years.
The dispute centered on pay cuts to fund pensions. The districts have been negotiating a new requirement for employees to pay into CalPERS gradually through a one-half percent reduction in salary every year.
The districts serves 5.6 million people in 78 cities and unincorporated areas, except for Los Angeles, which operates its own wastewater treatment plants and landfills. The county Sanitation Districts operates two working landfills in Calabasas and Scholl Canyon near Glendale, several recycling plants and three waste-to-energy plants. It handles one-fourth the county’s garbage.
Much of the county’s sewage waste is funneled through the districts’ 1,400 miles of sewers and 11 wastewater treatment plants.