The University of California announced Friday that it will seek a restraining order blocking a two-day strike called by hospital patient care technical workers.
Earlier on Friday, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 announced it would strike May 21 and 22. The union represents about 13,000 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 UC Davis.
UC will argue that the strike would violate a state law barring strikes that pose a risk to public health.
“It is highly inappropriate for AFSCME to threaten services to patients as a tactic in negotiations about pension benefit reforms,” said Dwaine Duckett, vice president for systemwide human resources at UC, in a news release. “Other UC unions representing 14 bargaining units have agreed to our pension reforms, which also apply to faculty and non-union staff. AFSCME wants special treatment, which is unfair to the rest of the UC workforce.”
Negotiations have dragged on since June 2012. The university says that the union won’t budge on increasing employee pension contributions from for 5 to 6.5 percent. Under the offer, UC’s contribution would increase from 10 to 12.5 percent.
UC is also calling for a new tier of pension benefits for employees hired after July 1, among other changes. It is also offering up to a 3.5 percent wage increase for the next four years. Union members received 5 percent wage increases for each of the past two years.
The union contends it has bargained in good faith and that it’s UC administrators whose actions threaten safety, making millions in profits while laying off workers and providing poor oversight. Ninety-seven percent of union members who voted recently backed a strike.
“This strike is about standing up for the students, patients and taxpayers the UC Medical System was intended to serve,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger in a news release. “UC’s increasingly unsafe staffing practices and growing culture of executive entitlement are undermining patient care quality and unnecessarily putting lives at risk.”
The union is proposing safe-staffing committees, limits on contracting out frontline care jobs to inexperienced temps and volunteers, and lower caps on pensions paid to UC executives, which can currently reach as high as $300,000 annually.
AFSCME represents such workers as respiratory therapists, nursing aides and surgical technicians, as well as security guards and other hospital employees.