Patient care workers ratify contract after nearly 2 years’ negotiating

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After nearly two years of negotiations, university patient-care workers ratified a four-year contract with 99 percent approval in a vote Wednesday and Thursday.

The union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, and the University of California reached the tentative agreement on March 23, averting a five-day strike planned for March 24 to 28.

The contract includes wage increases, staffing protections and changes to health care and pension benefits. UC Vice President for Human Resources Dwaine Duckett said the contract is very similar to the agreements reached months ago with the nurses union and other hospital workers.

“We are disappointed that this process took as long as it did and became so contentious,” Duckett said in a statement.

The about 13,000 patient-care workers include respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians and others at the UC campuses, laboratories and medical centers. They will receive a total of 16.5 percent across-the-board wage increases over the next four years, along with possible 2 percent increases each July. The 2 percent increases, called step-increases, allow a worker to move up within a set pay scale but don’t shift the pay scale itself.

Also, an emergency layoff proposal, which in part prompted the union to call the five-day strike and issue an unfair labor practice charge, was removed from the agreement.

The contract also includes health-care rate freezes for some employees and pension changes that, according to Duckett, make the pension system “fiscally sound.”

AFSCME also represents 8,300 university service workers. The university and these workers reached an agreement in February after the union called a five-day strike. The union cancelled the strike once the agreement was reached.

“While we don’t expect to always agree, we hope UC will join us in working to begin a new era of cooperation,” said union president Kathryn Lybarger in a statement about the contract agreement on March 23.

The university now has two contracts left to negotiate, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein. The patient-care workers’ contract is set to expire at the end of 2017.

Daniel Tutt covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @danielgtutt.