13,000 UC Technical Patient Care Workers To Go On Strike

Some 13,000 patient care technical workers plan to walk off the job at five University of California hospitals during a five-day strike later this month over alleged illegal bargaining practices by university administrators, a union spokesman announced today.

The workers at all five UC hospitals – Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco – intend to strike over alleged unfair labor practices March 24 to March 28, said Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents those employees.

Union representatives said the strike is in response to alleged “growing incidents of illegal, bad faith bargaining,” which include the university’s unilateral implementation of benefit cuts and contract terms and a last-minute proposal to allow the UC to send hospital workers home when patient counts are low.

AFSCME Local 3299 has filed unfair labor practice charges against the university with the Public Employment Relations Board and sent a notice of intent to strike on Thursday.

In a statement released today, UC Vice President of Human Resources Dwaine Duckett lamented the union’s strike announcement, calling it “patently unfair to the people we serve and our other dedicated hospital workers.”

However, he said the university is committed to settling a contract with the employees and have resumed negotiations with AFSCME representatives as of today.

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said earlier this week that the university has agreed to the union’s demands regarding pensions, benefits and time off, but that the two sides disagree over wages.

She said the emergency call-off measure is already part of nurses’ contracts and is common at hospitals nationwide and noted that the strike would be the union’s third over the past nine months.

Union officials say the planned strike as well as a similar strike held in November have been prompted by UC administrators’ repeated illegal treatment toward patient care workers.

“By repeatedly and illegally subverting the collective bargaining process, UC has created unnecessary conflict and sabotaged our good faith efforts to improve patient care at UC Hospitals,” said Randall Johnson, an MRI technologist at University of California, San Francisco.

“The frontline workers we represent know that if left unchallenged, UC’s serial lawbreaking will ultimately endanger the patients we serve. And we are not going to let that happen,” he said.

According to the union, the UC has repeatedly cited fiscal constraints during contract talks even as UC hospitals took in more than $632 million in profits last year, with two UC hospital CEOs earning more than $1 million each.

“It increasingly appears that UC is willing to break the law and endanger patients in the pursuit of profit and financial rewards for its highest paid executives,” said UCLA clinical care partner Monica Martinez.

“This would be unacceptable for any hospital but it is especially deplorable when it comes from a non-profit, public health delivery system that is subsidized by California taxpayers,” she said.

Patient care technical workers include pharmacy technicians, respiratory therapists, radiation therapists who treat cancer patients and those who operate equipment for x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, CT scans and mammograms.

As during previous strikes, AFSCME has voluntarily exempted 49 workers from striking, according to Stenhouse.

Laura Dixon, Bay City News

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