LOS ANGELES – A potential strike by 13,000 workers at UC hospitals statewide has been averted, as marathon contract talks over the weekend produced a new tentative contract today.

Hospitals at UCLA, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, among others, had been preparing for a walkout by patient care technical workers on Monday.

The proposed four-year contract was hailed as offering “fair wage increases, secure benefits and staffing protections, as well as the University’s top priority if pension reform,” according to a union statement.

A ratification vote for the contract has been set for Wednesday and Thursday.

“This agreement brings us back to a place where staff needs are met and lawful business practices are honored,” Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for AFSME 3299, said Sunday. “For the UC system and its patients, this represents a major step forward.”

Patient care technical workers perform MRIs and similar procedures, and had voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299. That was prompted by UC’s decision last summer to impose new contract terms that included ‘“sweeping new layoff powers,” according to a union official.

Picket lines were planned to go up at 7 a.m. Monday, and hospital officials were planning to use other workers and administrators to keep the doors open. Many UC hospitals in California operate insurance plans and also provide general hospital services under contracts with counties, in addition to teaching duties.

“This proposed agreement reflects compromise on both sides, improves safety in UC hospitals, and honors the important contributions to patient care technical workers,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of the AFSCME Local 3299.

Dwaine Duckett, UC vice president for human resources, issued a statement Sunday highlighting components of the four-year agreement, which includes wage increases that could reach 24.5 percent, rate freezes on health benefits for lower-salaried employees, retirement benefits matching that of AFSCME service workers and UC nurses, and revised language regarding layoffs and contracting.

“There was a true compromise by both sides to reach this agreement,” Duckett said. “This ends two years of very challenging negotiations and serves as a foundation for UC and AFSCME to build on going forward.”

The local represents 22,000 workers in the UC system, and is the universities’ largest union.

[Source]: OC Register