An eleventh-hour settlement has averted yet another strike on the University of California's medical campuses, including hospitals in Hillcrest and La Jolla.
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union local 3299, which represents University of California workers statewide, had claimed that employees were working under "growing pattern of illegal, bad faith bargaining by UC Administrators, with whom Patient Care workers have been attempting to negotiate a new contract for nearly two years."
In a previous strike in November and another in May 2013, union leadership had argued that University of California management had intimidated and harassed workers and attempted to force benefit cuts and "sweeping new layoff powers" on staffers. AFSCME has said reduced staffing levels proposed by management could present a danger to patients.
A new four-year agreement, announced March 23 and set for a union member vote this week, provides workers with wage increases of roughly four percent and benefit guarantees in addition to layoff protection. The UC system, for its part, won an increase in employee contributions to an underfunded pension system.
Todd Stenhouse, the union's communications director, emphasized the staffing level issue as key to the bargaining process, which includes limits on contracted, or temporary, workers providing patient care.
"I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that often, contracted workers are paid rock-bottom wages, they don't have the same experience as full-time workers, and in a health care environment there's a value to continuity," said Stenhouse when contacted for comment.