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Productivity Initiative

King County Wastewater Treatment Division's Productivity Initiative Pilot Program was a 10-year program conceived as an opportunity for a traditional utility to be managed and operated more like a private business.

Started in 2000, in a national climate where privatization was a threat to public utilities, the pilot program established year-by-year goals for reducing costs and annual savings targets. It applied certain private-sector business practices, including incentives to increase efficiency and cut operating cost, an incentive-based payout to employees in the wastewater program for meeting and exceeding annual targets, and mechanisms that ensured the wastewater utility continued its high level of service and environmental protection.

The pilot program ended in April 2011.

The Productivity Initiative was developed in 2000 and approved by the King County Executive and Council as a pilot program for the operating program in 2001. For King County's wastewater treatment employees, it was a way to improve how we do business, while providing the same high-quality services to the public that King County has always provided, and doing it with the best and most appropriate technology, human resources and fiscal planning found in the business world. It demonstrated WTD's commitment to being more efficient, reducing costs and meeting the county's obligation to protect public health and the environment.

The Productivity Initiative Pilot Program identified specific levels of service, cost reductions and efficiencies over the period 2001 to 2010 that would result in an estimated $75.9 million savings for ratepayers, while maintaining levels of service to these same customers. Through 2009, $72.6 million in savings have been achieved. Savings were achieved by undertaking an intensive review of business practices, identifying and implementing cost saving practices, increasing employee involvement in business decisions and ensuring that the wastewater program received the best possible services from its partner agencies within and outside the county.

The Productivity Initiative linked management decisions about employees with labor, and it required that management and labor cooperate to identify new ways of getting business done, meeting the bottom line, protecting public health and safety, and allowing employees to share in the financial rewards and risks of operating the program more like a business.

Program library

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Item Description
Pilot Plan
  • Pilot Plan Attachments A, BC
Original agreement between the wastewater program and King County. Approved April 2001.
Revised Section C-7 to Attachment C (revised May 20, 2002)
Executive Transmittal Letter (Feb. 8, 2001)
Item Description
King County Ordinance 14941 Legislation approved by the King County Council in addition to the original pilot plan legislation that clarifies participation of represented bargaining units in the wastewater division; codifies the Productivity Initiative for the wastewater program; and extends the initiative to major capital projects and the asset management program. Approved July 12, 2004.
King County Motion 11156 Establishes and endorses the Productivity Initiative. (April 27, 2001)
King County Ordinance 14084 Repeals the gainsharing program and establishes the Productivity Incentive Fund. (April 27, 2001)
King County Ordinance 14082 Approves the labor contracts with Teamsters Local 117. (April 27, 2001)
King County Ordinance 14083 Approves the labor contract with SEIU Local 925 (formerly Local 6). (April 27, 2001)
The following union agreements are listed on the human resource division, labor contracts page.
  • Teamsters Local 117 contracts
    • Wastewater Treatment Division–professional, technical, and administrative support
    • Professional and technical employees
  • SEIU Local 925 contract
  • Technical Employees Association (TEA) contract
  • Council 2 (Local 1652R) contract