By Cathie Anderson

More than 25,000 service and health care workers at the University of California will stage a one-day walkout on Nov. 13 over concerns about how their employer is outsourcing jobs that should be performed by union-represented workers.

Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed six new unfair labor complaints against the UC in late October alleging that it is violating state laws, UC’s own wage and procurement policies and the terms of collective bargaining agreements.

“These complaints detail UC’s continuing systematic and often secretive efforts to replace its own employees with lower wage contractors,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “What is so troubling about UC’s continuing illegal conduct is that it’s becoming even more prevalent. It’s past time for UC to change course and treat all of their workers with the respect and security we deserve.”

UC spokesperson Andrew Gordon shared a statement that, in part, read: “This strike notice does nothing to give employees the long-overdue agreement and raises they deserve. Meanwhile, the University has settled contracts with the leaders of nine unions who worked in good faith to resolve issues at the bargaining table. Our employees deserve the same from AFSCME leaders.”

In an interview with The Bee, Lybarger said that UC has dramatically increased its spending on general service contracts in just the last few years. As proof, she pointed to documents that the UC Office of the President provided to the California Legislature when questioned about its spending practices.

In 2016, UC provided information showing that it had spent $160.5 million on outsourcing contracts at its medical centers alone, but by 2019, in response to a separate query, the UC stated that general service contracts from its health-care centers totaled $296 million. That amounts to a roughly 84% increase in spending on contracts at UC medical centers, AFSCME leaders said.

UC officials said that the figures it provided to the Legislature cannot be compared because they cover different kinds of work. Any comparison of the two figures is not an apples-to-apples one – and therefore erroneous and inaccurate, UC spokesperson Andrew stated. The Bee requested comparable contracting figures for the two years from Gordon on Oct. 15, but UC officials have not provided them.

“A job with the UC has historically been a ladder to the middle class,” Lybarger said, “and when a job … is outsourced, that ladder is smashed. On top of that, we’ve seen growth in outsourcing accelerating, and again what that means is there are career workers, full-time, directly employed workers in UC’s hospitals and campuses who now carry an extra burden, having to attempt to train up people who don’t have the familiarity or the experience with the work or the worksite. It’s stressful because we’re trying to actually do a good job for the public and the patients and the students, and the UC policies and practices only make it that much harder.”

The Public Employment Relations Board, the agency charged with considering AFSCME 3299’s allegations, already has decided to hold hearings on one of the union’s allegations.

AFSCME 3299 leaders said its members will strike all 10 UC campuses and five medical centers, including at UC Davis’ main campus and at its medical center in Sacramento. At UC Davis Medical Center, AFSCME-represented workers and employees in other health-care unions have expressed dismay over plans to open an inpatient rehabilitation hospital at Aggie Square in Sacramento in conjunction with Kindred Healthcare.

Kindred, which is financing the project, will be doing hiring for that hospital’s staff, and those workers will not be members of AFSCME 3299 or other UC unions.

Jasmine Tobin, a certified occupational therapy assistant, said if she wants to continue working in inpatient rehab that she would have to apply for a job with Kindred. UC Davis spokesperson Steve Telliano said that medical center leaders have repeatedly assured employees in the rehabilitation unit that they will have need of their skills in other departments.

Liz Perlman, executive director of AFSCME Local 3299, said that since the UC Davis name is on the Kindred facility, residents will expect that they are getting the highly rated care that UC employees provide at the UCD Medical Center and that these employees are receiving the same pay as their counterparts at the medical center.

“We’re doing essentially the same job and serving the same people,” Perlman said in an interview with The Bee. “That’s what we see in Aggie Square. That’s what we’re seeing at UCSF, and that’s what we’re seeing now at UC Irvine and UCLA. It’s essentially the same services. It’s the same patients. It’s the same work.”

Gordon said: “UC’s contracts with AFSCME protect employees from displacement due to contracting and no employee can be terminated as a result of a subcontracting decision. In fact, the number of AFSCME-represented employees has actually increased by double digits over the past five years. The number of service workers has grown 16.8%, while the number of patient care workers has jumped 27.9%.”

AFSCME 3299’s bargaining teams have rejected the UC’s last best and final offers, which included 3% across-the-board wage increases and a prorated, lump-sum payment of $750. In separate contracts, the union represents service workers such as security guards, groundskeepers and custodians and patient-care technical workers such as respiratory therapists, nursing aides and MRI technologists.

The service workers’ contract expired in June 2017, and the patient care workers’ contract ended in December 2017. AFSCME 3299 has staged a number of walkouts since then.

The Public Employment Relations Board requires AFSCME 3299 and the UC’s other unions to provide enough workers to ensure that the UC hospitals can continue to provide necessary care.

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[Source]: Sacramento Bee