The University of California this week notified the union representing about 8,300 service gardeners, food service workers and custodians that would impose its final offer after more than a year of negotiations.
“Having completed all stages of the bargaining process, including state-assisted mediation and fact-finding, the university is legally entitled to implement its last proposal,” said Dwaine Duckett, UC’s vice president for systemwide human resources and programs, in a statement.
“These terms are fair, fiscally responsible, and guarantee our staff quality health care benefits as well as attractive pension and retiree health benefits that few public and private employers nationwide offer.”
UC will impose a new pension and retiree health benefits program that includes an increase in the university’s contribution from 10 to 12 percent and an employee contribution increase from 5 to 6.5 percent.
Medical, dental and vision benefits will remain at current rates. Eligibility rules for retiree health care will be revised. Employees hired after July 1 will receive a modified tier of pension benefits.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 said the cuts amount to an average 1.5 percent decrease for workers earning an average of $35,000 per year and up to $124,000 in higher health costs over a worker’s lifetime.
Duckett said the union objected to pension reform similar to that accepted by eight unions representing 14 units — “the kind of reform that’s absolutely necessary to protect the long-term viability of UC’s retirement program so it continues to deliver quality benefits to our employees upon retirement.”
The sides last sat down at the bargaining table on Sept. 18, but were unable to resolve their differences.
The union charged that UC is forcing changes that hurt some of its lowest-paid workers, 99 percent of whom are income-eligible for some form of public assistance. One in 10 UC service workers are injured on the job, with such injuries increasing by more than 17 percent since 2009.
“The aspirations and sacrifice of generations of front-line workers and everyday taxpayers built UC into a crown jewel public university and a gateway to the middle class,” AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in a news release.
“Today, UC is being transformed into a symbol of the widening income gap that is condemning growing numbers of Americans to a life of poverty. Taking from UC’s lowest paid, full-time workers in order to line the pockets of UC executives is not just an attack on collective bargaining — it’s an assault on basic morality.”
UC’s highest-paid employees — nearly 700 of whom, the union says, receive larger salaries than the president of the United States — have received a 3 percent raise this year.
On Sept. 12, the California Public Employment and Relations Board filed an unfair labor practices charge, based on AFSCME complaints of threatening and intimidating behavior during a two-day health care worker strike in May. AFSCME represents more than 12,500 UC patient-care employees systemwide.