AFSCME and UC reach agreement that averts strike

The union representing 13,000 patient care and technical workers at five University of California Medical Centers called off an unfair labor practices strike scheduled to begin March 24 after the union and UC reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.

Members will vote March 26 and 27 on the tentative agreement.

The strike was averted after the two sides held marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend prior to the planned strike.

“This weekend the University returned to the bargaining table in a spirit of good faith, and we were able to not only avert a strike but to reach a tentative agreement that . . . patient care workers have sought for nearly two years,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299, the workers’ union.

Lybarger also said that the tentative agreement “reflects compromises on both sides.”

Bargaining between UC and Local 3299 began 20 months ago.

UC sought a number of concessions, some of which, said the union, put patient safety at risk.

When negotiations and mediation failed to resolve these issues, Local 3299 members in May voted overwhelmingly to conduct an unfair labor practice strike.

Shortly after the strike vote, members conducted the first ever unfair labor practices strike at UC Medical Centers and clinics.

The strike last two days. Local 3299 members planned carefully and took steps to ensure that no patients were put at risk during the strike.

When the strike concluded, UC began harassing and intimidating strike supporters.

In July, UC announced that without further negotiations it would impose its last contract offer.

That announcement led to an act of civil disobedience at a UC Regents meeting in Los Angeles.

Twenty-five Local 3299 members were arrested for blocking traffic outside of the meeting.

UC eventually returned to the bargaining table, but negotiations faltered until members in March voted to conduct another unfair labor practices strike.

The tentative agreement addresses some patient safety issues raised by the union during negotiations.

For example, it limits UC’s ability to contract work out to low-bid, low-wage private contractors.

It also expands the staffing committees to give workers a greater voice in matters involving safe staffing levels, an important factor for ensuring patient safety.

The wage increases in the new contract should go a long way toward helping UC retain highly qualified patient care workers, which in turn will mean better care for patients.

The agreement calls for across the board wage increases of 21 percent over the four-year life of the contract.

Also included in the contract are four 2 percent step increases that will be implemented annually.

The tentative agreement requires workers to increase their pension contribution by 2.5 percent, which had been one of UC’s top priorities during negotiations.

In a statement about the tentative agreement, Lybarger said that she hoped that the new agreement would lead to a new era of cooperation between workers and UC.

In her statement, Lybarger referred to another agreement that Local 3299 and UC reached concerning service workers at UC’s nine academic campuses.

“Moving forward, Local 3299 will continue working with University administrators to enforce and build on the recent agreements we have secured both for service and patient care workers,” said Lybarger. “While we don’t expect to always agree, we hope UC will join us in working to begin a new era of cooperation, rooted in constructive dialogue and finding common solutions to benefit the patients, students and communities we serve.”

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