Health Workers May Strike For Wages

     

    Patient care workers at UC hospitals may strike for higher wages and lower benefits costs following a delay in contractual negotiations. 

    The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 called for a vote on whether or not to strike in a statement last Friday. The union blasted the University of California for spending an additional $100 million on salaries and benefits for its top executives while offering workers a paltry average pension of $19,000.

    “UC Medical Centers have offered their front line care workers cuts in total compensation,” the statement read.

    The union represents more than 13,000 workers statewide, including 2,000 technicians and vocational nurses at UCSD’s Medical Center. They have been negotiating a contract for over 10 months with no results, even after the current contract expired on Jan. 31 of this year.

    A group of AFSCME workers previously staged a protest supported by UCSD students, as reported in a Feb. 4th, 2013 issue of the Guardian. Students and workers gathered outside of a private faculty club meeting for a new chancellor to challenge the workers’ low wages as well as unlivable pensions. The protest was one of many occurring on UC campuses. 

    But University of California Vice President of Systemwide Human Resources Dwaine Duckett issued a statement condemning the strike vote as a diversion from the real issue of pension reform.

    “By encouraging a possible strike among our patient care employees, AFSCME is attempting to use patient care as a tool in contract negotiations and potentially endangering public health, which is completely inappropriate,” Dukett said. “Patients are not bargaining chips.”

    The statement also asserts that it has offered AFSCME an economic package that includes annual wage increases of up to 3.5 percent for the next four years in addition to a set of health and pension benefits.

    AFSCME Local 3299 also went on strike in 2008 in a parallel dispute over salary increases for custodians, housekeepers and food preparation employees on the UCSD campus and in the UCSD Medical Center system. That strike had previously been delayed by a court-ordered injunction. 

    The union plans to hold a vote between April 30 and May 2 to determine their course of action.

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