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Two-day strike looms at UC med centers

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From page A3 | May 19, 2013 |

The California Public Employment Relations Board plans to seek a limited temporary injunction on Monday barring essential employees from striking at University of California medical centers.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 plans to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. The union represents more than 12,500 UC patient care technical workers at UC ’s five medical centers and at student heath centers across the 10-campus system, including 2,655 workers at the UC Davis Medial Center in Sacramento.

The University Professional and Technical Employees union, which represents about 3,300 UC health care employees, has announced a one-day sympathy strike for Tuesday.

In a statement released on Friday, AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said that if granted by a superior court judge, the injunction would keep 120 employees from striking.

“We are pleased that the PERB has affirmed the right of UC Patient Care Technical Workers to strike, and has produced a determination that is both consistent with the spirit of AFSCME 3299’s Patient Protection Measures, and holds UC accountable for its refusal to cooperate with our good faith efforts to ensure patient safety,” she said.

“That said, we are disappointed that the PERB’s proposed limited injunction unnecessarily covers nearly two dozen patient care workers that would have been available to meet emergent needs through our Patient Protection Task Force.”

By Friday, UC had begun canceling elective surgeries. John Stobo, senior vice president for Health Sciences and Services, said that hiring temporary workers during the strike and other costs could reach $15 million to $20 million.

A strike would also have other impacts on patients that include some in need of emergency care being sent elsewhere for treatment, he said.

Said Stobo in a statement, “At the Regents meeting this week, AFSCME representatives shouted, ‘Shame on you.’ I say, Shame on them. Shame on them for jeopardizing health services that people need and deserve. It is completely inappropriate to threaten services to patients as a negotiating tactic — the health of our patients must not be held hostage.”

AFSCME has said it will keep weekend-level staffing in critical areas such as neonatal and burn units during a walkout. Some strikers will go back to work if medical emergencies arise and return to the picket lines once the patients are treated.

“The most important thing here is that patient safety be preserved,” union spokesman Todd Stenhouse said.

The five medical centers serve about 2,400 inpatients on an average day, as well as outpatients for such treatments as chemotherapy. The number of patients in the hospitals could drop by 25 percent during a strike, Stobo said.

The two sides are fighting over pensions and staffing levels. UC officials say the union has refused to accept a new pension plan, similar to those of other state workers, which requires more employee contributions and reduces long-term benefits for new hires. The union contends staffing has been reduced to dangerous levels.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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