LOS ANGELES (AP) — Voting is set to begin on a contract for more than 12,000 researchers, technical employees and health care professionals who work for the University of California — a deal one labor observer said Monday could serve as a guidepost for other unions still trying to hammer out agreements with the system.
The tentative deal on the four-year contract was recently reached between UC and negotiators for the University Professional & Technical Employees union. The vote by members, about 2,000 of whom work at UC Davis, is expected this week.
The agreement prevents the creation of a two-tiered pension system that would have pushed back retirement benefits from age 60 to 65.
Under the proposal, workers would kick in an additional 1 percent to the pension plan in addition to the 8 percent workers already pay.
The proposed contract also includes cost-of-living increases totaling of 11.5 to 13 percent over four years, in addition to regular step pay increases. Present annual average salaries for union members by unit are: health care professional, $96,409; research support, $49,753; and technical support, $43,102.
The university system also has reached other agreements in the past two months with unions representing nurses, lecturers, librarians and police officers.
Some observers say the deals might help other unions at the bargaining table, including one that represents more than 20,000 hospital employees who have participated in a pair of walkouts this year.
“According to some of the unions, there have been improvements at the negotiating table,” said John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University. “That gives some hope that a similar agreement can be worked out.”
Logan said the two-tiered pension plan has been central in many of the negotiations with the UC system, and getting it knocked out of a proposed contract will help the unions’ future prospects.
“I guess I would argue it’s not a good deal for anyone that there would be a worse pension system for current or new employees,” he said. “Hopefully we will see more of these kinds of deals in the public sector where sides can reach fair agreements.”
Jelger Kalmijn, president of the professional and technical employees union, said the UC system never raised an issue of “financial constraint” during two years of negotiations. Kalmijn believes UC administrators didn’t make retaining its employees a priority.
“The university is nonprofit and a lot of people come here to work for their whole life,” Kalmijn said. “And that’s why benefits are so important. It makes sense for the university to get good people here and keep them here.”
UC officials called the agreement fair and the result of hard work on both sides.
“It has been a long road and we are pleased that we have been able to work through the issues and negotiate fair terms for our hard-working employees,” said Dwaine B. Duckett, UC vice president of human resources.
— Enterprise staff writer Cory Golden contributed to this report.