Unresolved contract issues lead to frustration among UCSD employees

By Paul Sisson

Health care workers at UC San Diego Medical Center and other University of California hospitals across the state moved one step closer to the picket line Tuesday, announcing they have authorized a strike but announcing no firm date when they would stop reporting for work.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 said that 97 percent of its 13,000 members voted to strike out of frustration in stalled contract negotiations.

At UC San Diego, the union represents more than 2,000 workers in jobs that range from respiratory therapists and licensed vocational nurses to custodians and food service workers.

Pension costs, compensation, and staffing levels are some of the unresolved issues in the talks.

The union has not specified a date for the strike, but says it will provide the university 10 days notice before workers stop reporting for duty.

The university said Tuesday that it will use replacement workers to fill temporarily vacant positions. Some union workers went on strike in 2008, and the university was able to backfill with temporary workers.

The university accused the union of using patients as leverage.

“Our patients are not bargaining chips,” the university said Tuesday.

In previous statements, the university has said the union is refusing to agree to pension reforms that would require workers to pay a larger percentage of their take-home pay toward retirement.

The university said in an email that the average wage of the 2,000 workers set to strike is $52,617 with an additional $19,468, on average, paid in benefits. It was not clear whether those average costs were just for technical workers or also included nontechnical union members such as custodians and food service workers.

But union officials have said that pension cuts take a bigger bite out of rank-and-file employees’ paychecks than other types of employees, like executives.

The union released a statement on Friday that took the university to task for having higher pension limits for executives than for rank-and-file employees.

“While the pensionable compensation cap for state employees was reduced to $110,000 in 2012, UC’s pension cap remains substantially higher — $375,000 for employees hired before 1994 and $250,000 for employees hired since,” the union said.

[Source]: U~T San Diego