UC workers to strike in light of labor negotiations

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The UC chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced Friday that it will hold a strike vote from April 30 to May 2 in light of labor negotiations with the UC Office of the President.

According to a statement published by AFSCME 3299, a union representing UC service and patient-care workers, the strike aims to bring attention to alleged patient health issues at UC medical centers. Following months of unsuccessful attempts at negotiations, 13,000 patient care technical workers will strike against the elimination of frontline care jobs as well as increasing executive payrolls and debts, the statement reads.

“UC administrators are asking frontline care providers to subsidize chronic understaffing, growing management bloat and unprecedented executive excess at UC’s taxpayer-supported teaching hospitals,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME 3299. “That’s something we simply will not do.”

The most recent agreement between the university and AFSCME workers expired on Sept. 30, 2012. According to the press release, negotiations and mediation proceedings before and since then have failed to produce an agreement on several issues.

In a report published by AFSCME last month, the union alleged that UC medical centers are endangering patients by eliminating hundreds of frontline care jobs and outsourcing critical patient-care functions to less experienced workers. The report stated that the hospitals have increased executive payroll by $100 million since 2009 and have quadrupled their annual debt payment obligations since 2006.

“Every time we try to talk about patient care, the UC tries to change the subject,” said Todd Stenhouse, communications director for AFSCME 3299. “UC is sending a very troubling message to grandmothers, to neighbors, to families who depend on frontline patient care for their lives.”

Noting that the medical centers are renowned for providing world-class patient care, UC representatives dismissed allegation of chronic understaffing and patient-safety issues at UC medical centers put forth by the report.

“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,” said Dwaine Duckett, UC vice president for systemwide human resources, in a statement last Friday. “Patients are not bargaining chips.”

Duckett said that AFSCME’s strike vote is an attempt to divert attention from its refusal to agree to the university’s pension reforms. He said that the university would continue to be open to compromise and try to reach a fair and financially responsible contract for employees.

“The way to resolve differences about employee pay and benefits is through substantive and collaborative discussion at the bargaining table — not by threatening strikes that endanger patient care,” Duckett said.

Contact Mia Shaw at [email protected].

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