Doctors working at UC student health centers went on strike Thursday to protest alleged unfair labor practices by the university during contract negotiations between the university and a doctors’ union.
Members of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, or UAPD, went on strike Thursday, marking the first of a four-day strike at Northern California campuses. Strikes at Southern California campuses are scheduled to begin Saturday.
The Tang Center remained open during the strike, and physician managers, nurse practitioners and other staff handled any urgent medical issues, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. She said individuals with nonurgent appointments were asked to reschedule.
The strike began in front of the Tang Center about 7:30 a.m., where approximately 20 physicians wearing white lab coats marched and picketed.
“We don’t have the money to support student health,” said Jeff Nelson, the UC Berkeley member of the UAPD bargaining team.
Students’ health is the main priority of the strikes, according to UAPD president Stuart Bussey. To increase recruitment and retention, physicians’ pay needs to be raised to market rate, he said, otherwise doctors will leave.
“I don’t think what they’re asking for is exorbitant,” Bussey said.
UC physicians are also asking for an increased budget to improve health center facilities, hire more psychiatrists and improve care overall, which Bussey said requires funding for doctors.
In response to the protests, UC vice president for human resources Dwaine Duckett said in a statement that he was disappointed that the union had chosen to strike for the second time in three months instead of negotiating to resolve the remaining issues.
“Strikes that negatively impact our students will not resolve a labor dispute,” Duckett said in the statement. “We urge union leaders to be reasonable and focus their energy on reaching a fair agreement.”
In the statement, Duckett disagreed with the union’s claims that the strikes are about unfair labor practice charges and said the union has refused to discuss these allegations at the bargaining table. Nelson said attempted mediation with the university was unsuccessful.
Sean Kennedy, the UC Davis UAPD bargaining team member, said the union formed because UC health services have not been able to keep pace with an increased demand because of lack of funding.
UAPD held an earlier strike in January, marking its first strike in the union’s 43-year-long history. Approximately 150 UC physicians organized within UAPD in late 2013. They began negotiating the contract with the university in January 2014.
Bussey said the university shifts the cost to the students, which, paired with increasing student enrollment on campus, makes it harder to support student health needs.
“It’s a loud statement to them (that) we absolutely might strike again,” Nelson said.
Staff writer Suhauna Hussain contributed to this report.
Contact Cassie Ippaso at [email protected].