A state board issued two complaints against the University of California on behalf of the UC’s largest union Wednesday, which will still proceed with a five-day strike at the UC’s medical centers next week despite recent developments in negotiations between the two parties.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 union, which represents about 13,000 UC patient care workers, claimed in complaints it filed with the Public Employment Relations Board that the University committed a series of illegal and unfair labor practices, including trying to implement a measure during its collective bargaining process that would allow the University to lay off any number of employees for “emergency” reasons.
Now that these complaints are issued, the two parties will meet for an informal conference guided by a board official.
AFSCME and the UC are currently in negotiations over a contract for AFSCME’s patient care workers, a process that has been going on since late 2012. The two parties recently reached agreement on a contract for AFSCME’s service workers, avoiding a five-day strike that would have occurred this month.
It is because of this alleged series of unfair labor practices that AFSCME decided to go on strike next week at the UC’s medical centers, said Todd Stenhouse, AFSCME 3299 spokesman.
Dianne Klein, UC spokeswoman, said Thursday that the University took the layoff measure off the bargaining table late last week, and therefore she thinks AFSCME no longer has a reason to go on strike. Klein added the University has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against AFSCME, saying the union is calling for a strike on a false premise.
The UC’s medical centers are already allowed the power to lay off workers. It is used as a “management tool” whereby medical centers can send patient care technical workers or nurses home in the rare event hospitals don’t have as many patients to serve, Klein said.
However, Klein said the ability has rarely been used. It happened once recently for one patient care worker at UC San Diego. The University is now asking AFSCME to sign a side letter saying it will not file an unfair labor practice complaint or otherwise take action related to the incident, she added.
Stenhouse said the power of emergency layoffs – which AFSCME has claimed could endanger patients by leaving hospitals short-staffed – is still not gone from the picture and remains an important issue for the union.
Stenhouse also said AFSCME’s strike is not just about the emergency layoff issue but about a larger string of incidences where the University allegedly broke the law in its bargaining relationship with AFSCME. He added AFSCME is not holding the strike about the issue of wanting higher wages, as the University alleges.
Klein said the University is offering AFSCME’s patient care workers a 27 percent wage increase over the next four years, in addition to a freeze on some health care rates and the same pension and retiree health benefit programs that unionized nurses and research, healthcare and technical employees have.
The University and AFSCME have another collective bargaining session scheduled for Friday, the last business day before AFSCME’s strike. If AFSCME proceeds with its strike, it will be the third one it has held in the past year.
Compiled by Kristen Taketa, Bruin senior staff.
[Source]: Daily Bruin