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CWA approves Project Labor Agreement for capital projects

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The San Diego County Water Authority approved a project labor agreement for future capital projects.

The Oct. 28 SDCWA board vote approved a project labor agreement negotiated by the CWA and the San Diego Building Trades Council, and the board action also determined that the PLA applies to specified Capital Improvement Program projects. A PLA is a collective bargaining agreement between a public agency planning a construction project, its contractors and the unions which represent the skilled labor needed for that project.

The PLA will be for a five-year term. A PLA outlines specific terms and conditions which govern the employment of labor for the duration of the project. Public agencies enter into a PLA to achieve one or more benefits such as eliminating the risk of strikes or other labor-related construction disruptions, fostering a skilled and trained local construction workforce, creating employment and training opportunities and helping the agency compete for state or Federal construction grant funds.

The CWA utilized a PLA for the Emergency Storage Project. That PLA took effect in 1999 and covered more than a dozen major projects totaling approximately $1.5 billion. The PLA ended in 2017 in accordance with its terms and after completion of the covered projects.

Gary Croucher was the CWA board chair in May 2021 when he convened a PLA Work Group to study and consider a potential new PLA. In January 2022, the work group recommended establishing a $1 million Capital Improvement Program construction project threshold in a new PLA. The CWA board approved that threshold Jan. 27 and directed CWA staff to proceed with negotiating a new PLA and identifying resources needed to implement a new PLA.

The CWA and the San Diego Building Trades Council negotiated a draft PLA which reflected the new threshold and other considerations requested by the work group, including opportunities for local and disadvantaged workers. The terms of the PLA include that all qualified contractors and subcontractors may bid for and be awarded work on a project regardless of whether they are parties to collective bargaining agreements.

The new PLA has provisions related to protecting the stability and continuity of construction projects including prohibitions against labor-related work stoppages and employer lockouts, specifications for a uniform process for dispute resolution, and the formation of a joint committee between labor, contractors and the CWA to facilitate communication and coordination among all parties. The PLA also addresses drug and alcohol testing and contractor safety programs.

A goal is for 60% of construction craft hours for each covered project to be performed by local workers, defined as residents of the CWA’s service area or veterans residing anywhere.

Another goal is for 15% of construction craft hours for each covered project to be performed by “targeted” workers such as veterans, workers with no high school diploma, homeless residents, former foster youth, custodial single parents, individuals unemployed before being hired, recipients of government assistance, residents at or below 100% of federal poverty level, formerly incarcerated individuals, pre-apprentice program graduates and apprentices with less than 15% of the required hours completed.

The PLA also covers a “Construction Careers Pipeline Program” which is designed to encourage local and targeted workers to enter apprenticeship programs to begin or continue their construction careers on projects covered by the PLA. Also included is an agreement to use the Center for Military Recruitment Assessment and Veterans Employment’s “Helmets to Hardhats” program as a resource to help attract more veterans to work on covered projects.

Over the next five years, CWA staff estimates that the CWA will commence work on 25 capital construction projects valued at $1 million or more with a total combined contract value of approximately $455 million. The CWA retains its ability to add, defer or cancel capital projects as circumstances require.

Changes to the Capital Improvement Program are usually brought to the board and approved as part of the two-year budget process. If any construction projects of $1 million or greater are added to the current five-year forecast outside of the budget process, they will be brought to the Board for the required PLA determination before issuing procurement documents for those contracts.

The planned capital projects during fiscal years 2022-2023 to 2026-2027 which will be covered by the PLA include the San Luis Rey River Habitat Management Area Restoration, which has a $2 million grading estimate and is expected to begin during fiscal year 2023-2024, and the San Luis Rey River Habitat Management Area Restoration, whose plant establishment project has a $3 million estimate and is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2024-2025.

The Pipeline 5 Relining in San Luis Rey Canyon has an estimated $27 million cost and is planned to begin in fiscal year 2023‑2024. The Pipeline 5 Relining from Aqueduct Road to the Rainbow 3 Flow Control Facility has a current $25 million cost estimate and a targeted fiscal year 2024‑2025 start. A long-term erosion control solution for Pipeline 4 in Moosa Canyon has a planned $43 million cost and construction is expected to begin in fiscal year 2025‑2026. The Rainbow 6 Flow Control Facility has a $12 million cost estimate and construction is planned to start during fiscal year 2026-2027.

The start for facilities improvement and equipment throughout the CWA service area varies, but the program currently has an estimated $16 million cost. Flow control facility seismic upgrades are expected to begin during fiscal year 2023‑2024 and cost $4 million. First Aqueduct bifurcations and treated water tunnels have a $2 million cost estimate and a fiscal year 2023‑2024 starting date. Construction on the aqueduct communications system which is expected to cost $4 million is expected to begin during fiscal year 2026-2027.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].

 

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