UCSD employees rally for a better contract

Demanding a better contract with the University of California, employees of UCSD and its medical centers rallied Thursday in the Price Center as part of a UC-wide “”Day of Action.””

Jeffrey White
Guardian

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Students for Economic Justice and others addressed a rowdy audience on the lawn above the Price Center as many looked on from the vendor fair being held that day on Library Walk.

Demonstrators then marched to the chancellor’s office to deliver a letter stating their demands, central to which was the issue of what speakers called unethical treatment of UC temporary workers.

Filner, who was a professor for 20 years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, said he attended the rally to support AFSCME and to stress that workers should be treated with respect and not be forced to shoulder the effects of the slowing economy.

“”I’m here as a member of Congress to say that we are not willing to let working people bear the brunt of the economic sacrifices that have to be made over the next months or years,”” Filner said.

Local AFSCME chapter chair David O’Neal addressed the crowd, saying the University of California is not honoring its agreement made last September regarding UC temporary employees.

“”The situation that we have here today is that workers called ‘temporary workers,’ once they approach 1,000 hours, are being fired so the UC can avoid making them benefited employees,”” O’Neal said.

After so-called temporary employees reach 1,000 hours of work for the university in a calendar year they are considered “”career”” employees, at which time they are eligible for more comprehensive benefits.

Filner said that after his 20 years of experience as a college professor, he acknowledges the importance of support staff in keeping a university running, and for that reason, he said, they must be treated with respect.

“”You cannot pay them low wages or keep them in temporary positions to solve a monetary problem,”” Filner said. “”You must treat them respectfully, pay them respectfully and give them the benefits they deserve.””

O’Neal read aloud the letter addressed to Chancellor Robert C. Dynes, in which AFSCME demanded to meet with him within two weeks to further discuss their grievances and to reach an agreement.

“”Since July 4 of this year, employees in ongoing positions have been released solely due to the number of hours worked,”” O’Neal said. “”This is a blatant disregard of the agreement that was reached between UC and AFSCME.””

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Rogers Davis said the university has received and is reviewing AFSCME’s grievances regarding four employees from the temporary pool who were terminated before they reached the 1,000 work hours required to receive benefits.

“”Their grievance is going through the grievance process,”” Davis said. “”The rights and entitlements of those employees will ultimately get decided in a normal litigation process, which is fair and objective.””

Davis said that a position can be considered temporary for a variety of reasons. Such positions, he said, would include those that are created to supplement regular staff in times of peak workload, when a career employee goes on maternity leave, or when the departments are project-related and the department does not have permanent funding for the position.

Regarding the four terminated employees, Davis acknowledged the differing views of the university and of AFSCME.

“”The question is whether or not we can legitimately terminate their employment,”” he said. “”AFSCME would say no, we would say yes.””

UCSD Director of Labor Relations Michael P. Melman said that certain points of a contract between the University of California and AFSCME have been tentatively agreed upon, but that AFSCME has not officially ratified any contract in its entirety.

Melman also said that the university and AFSCME have come to an agreement on the temporary employee issue, but other issues in the contract negotiations are holding up a final agreement.

“”[The University of California] and AFSCME already reached a tentative agreement regarding the temporary workers, but AFSCME has not yet formally ratified the [proposed] contract,”” Melman said.

Among the articles Melman said have not been agreed upon are those covering wages and health and safety measures.

He added that the university’s terms, if passed by AFSCME, provide for the four workers named in the grievances to continue working for the university, and again begin accruing hours.

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