UC and union reach agreement

    After five months of negotiations, the University of California has reached an agreement with the University Professional and Technical Employees union for a new labor contract on Oct. 20.

    “”We’re pleased that we were able to negotiate a salary increase at a time [in the economy] when it is difficult to offer raises,”” said Ann Skinner, director of human resources for UCSD Health Care. “”It shows that we really value our employees.””

    Affecting the 2,100 health care professionals employed by the University of California, the three-year, 46-article contract is headlined by annual wage increases, effective retroactively on July 1 of this year.

    Other features include improved layoff and severance benefits, as well as professional development and educational-leave benefits.

    According to Leslie Franz, director of health sciences and communications for UCSD Health Care, the contract affects the 246 employees at UCSD’ Thornton and Hillcrest hospitals.

    These workers will receive a 1.8 percent salary increase this year, followed by a 2 percent raise in 2004 and a 3 percent raise in 2005.

    The university cited hard work, respect and professionalism as key factors in resolving the contract in “”just five months,”” according to a press release.

    Negotiations began in March and ended when a tentative agreement was made in mid-August. Official confirmation was made on Oct. 20 when the union voted to ratify the contract.

    “”We’re always glad when we’re able to achieve a contract with our workers,”” Franz said. “”The work force is what makes our system successful, and when they’re happy, patient care can happen.””

    However, sentiments on the UPTE union side varied. According to UPTE Systemwide President Jelger Kalmijn, the contract was ratified by a margin of three votes with a more than 50 percent voter turnout.

    “”Many of the pay scales at the University of California medical centers continue to lag behind industry standards,”” Kalmijn said. “”The pay increases are better than those received by campus employees but not sufficient to meet the needs for health care professionals. The union will continue to push for additional increases to meet urgent equity needs starting immediately.””

    Prior to voting, UPTE San Diego President Eric Paavola sent out a letter to union members around San Diego urging them to vote against ratification, citing in particular a lack of benefits for local members.

    The three-year of the contract was not beneficial, Paavola noted in the letter, as “”UPTE has been working toward a contract that expires at the same time as the nurses’ contract [in two years], not a year later. We will lose bargaining power if we have a three-year contract.””

    “”I can’t say that there are many new features [to the new contract],”” Paavola said. “”The severance pay does not allow for those persons who have a reduction in time to get severance pay. We should not have left bargaining without it. Severance pay is only good if you never plan on returning to the university. Otherwise, it affects your seniority and medical benefits upon retirement.””

    According to Paavola, San Diego local employees were at a disadvantage in the negotiation process due to lack of representation.

    He said that the original delegate was unable to manage her work at the office and the time-consuming bargaining process on the side.

    The original delegate stepped away from the bargaining table, and San Diego union members were unable to find a replacement before negotiations ended, he said.

    “”The entire nation continues to experience a dearth of health care professionals and the University of California’s uncompetitive wages will continue to cause severe staffing problems in an already overtaxed workforce,”” Kalmijn said. “”We continue to have grave concerns about the quality of health care when employees have unrealistic workloads, can rarely go on vacation and get punished when they call in sick.””

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