University, Union Reach Tentative Wage Agreement

    The University of California reached a tentative contract agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Oct. 19, closing a 14-month negotiation period for 11,000 patient-care technical workers who have not received a pay increase since 2006.

    The five-year agreement — which includes $127 million in total salary increases and guarantees a systemwide PCT minimum wage of $14.50 by 2012 — will take effect once it is ratified by union members early next month.

    Since bargaining began in August 2007, the university has witnessed organized walkouts, student demonstrations and expressions of discontent published online by AFSCME.

    UC Office of the President spokesman Paul Schwartz said the university is relieved to have finally attained a compromise.

    “We feel that we have had fair and financially realistic proposals on the table, and we would have liked to have reached this point sooner,” he said. “But we’re pleased to now be able to provide our workers with the raises they deserve.”

    Under the new contract, PCT employees will receive 2-percent increases at the beginning of each year, as well as midyear raises of 3 to 5 percent. In addition, an across-the-board 4-percent increase will be paid retroactively between the date of ratification and Oct. 15, 2007, when the previous contract expired. The settlement also includes a significant revision to overtime benefits. The university will discontinue a current policy that excludes part-time workers by offering overtime rates only to those employees who work at least 80 hours per pay period.

    Jessica Agost, a senior surgical technologist at UCSD Medical Center and a member of AFSCME’s patient-care bargaining team, works only four days a week, but she frequently serves extended shifts for no reward.

    “Somebody like me who works 80 percent never gets time-and-a-half,” she said. “I’m off one day a week, so even if I work 12 hours a day side by side with nurses, [overtime] does not go into effect.”

    The new overtime plan — identical to those at competing San Diego hospitals Scripps Memorial and Kaiser Permanente — grants employees 150-percent pay after eight hours and double-time after 12 hours, without the 80-hour pay period requirement.

    AFSCME Local 3299 President Lakesha Harrison added that for the first time ever, union approval will be required for any revisions to health-care or pension policies that the university wishes to implement.

    “In the past, the university was just able to say, ‘Here are your new rates for health care,’” she said. “Now the workers have the final say.”

    Agost said PCT contracts have always lasted only three years, and that the union’s most recent demands were more ambitious than usual. However, she said workers have been struggling for a long time, and that her bargaining team remained patient in order to avoid committing to a contract that was “just OK.”

    “I would say that this is the best contract PCT workers have ever received,” she said. “It might not be exactly where we want to be, but we had a lot on the table and we got a lot.”

    Harrison called the contract a victory, but emphasized that roughly 8,500 service workers — also represented by AFSCME — remain in poverty and have been working without a contract since January.

    “This agreement reflects the kind of change we’re trying to make, but this is only half the battle,” she said. “We represent 20,000 workers, and this still leaves our service workers out. Many of these workers are eligible for public assistance, and they are the workers we really need to help now.”

    Whereas patient-care technical salaries are funded by UC medical center revenues, the university relies on state money for its service workers.

    Schwartz explained that although many service employees work at the medical centers, the university must consider all service workers in the same category for equity purposes.

    “The amount of money we get from the state is the biggest single source for systemwide increases, and we have to think about employees across the system,” he said. “All of our employees deserve to be compensated fairly, and we’re working hard toward that goal to the extent that resources allow.”

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal