State labor officials will move to limit the number of University of California medical center employees who can go out on strike next week at facilities including UC San Francisco, university officials said today.
The California Public Employment Relations Board will seek a temporary restraining order today blocking some employees from taking part in the planned strike after university officials argued that their doing so would constitute a threat to public health and safety, according to a statement from the UC’s Office of the President.
The May 21-22 strike involves more than 12,500 patient care employees, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union. Around 3,300 employees represented by the University Professional and Technical Employees union have also been asked to go out on strike in sympathy for one day on May 21.
AFSCME officials said the temporary injunction would affect fewer than 120 employees, nearly two-dozen of whom were already planning to make themselves available to help with emergencies through the union’s “Patient Protection Task Force.”
“We are pleased that the PERB has affirmed the right of UC Patient Care Technical Workers to strike, and has produced a determination that is both consistent with the spirit of AFSCME 3299’s Patient Protection Measures, and holds UC accountable for its refusal to cooperate with our good faith efforts to ensure patient safety,” AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in a statement.
UC officials condemned the strike, and said that it would cost up to $20 million across five medical centers to ensure patient safety.
“It is completely inappropriate to threaten services to patients as a negotiating tactic—the health of our patients must not be held hostage,” said Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president for health sciences and services.
“If union-represented employees strike, people will suffer,” Stobo added, calling on the union to return to the bargaining table.
AFSCME and the UC have been negotiating since June 2012. A major issue, according to UC officials, has been a proposal to change pension benefits by increasing contributions from both employees and the UC, creating a new tier of pension benefits for newly hired employees and revising eligibility rules for retiree health benefits.
UC officials say eight other UC unions have agreed to similar reforms, which are intended to address a $24 billion unfounded pension plan liability.
UC’s four-year contract proposal includes a 3.5 percent wage increase per year, officials said.
Union officials, however, have emphasized patient safety and staffing levels as key issues in the strike, rather than pensions.
Officials at UCSF said that the strike there could involve more than 4,200 employees and primarily affect UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. However, it could also affect patient care at other UCSF clinical sites including San Francisco General Hospital, dental clinics and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute.