By Cory Golden

The union representing more than 13,000 University of California patient care technical workers has voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.

AFSCME Local 3299 announced Tuesday that than 97 percent of those who took part supported the strike in a three-day vote last week at UC’s five medical centers and at student heath centers across the 10-campus system. No date for a strike has been set yet.

President Kathryn Lybarger said the union had bargained unsuccessfully for much of a year. The union represents such workers as respiratory therapists, nursing aides and surgical technicians, as well as security guards and other hospital employees. At UCD, the union represents 2,655 workers.

“This was a vote for our patients, our students and our families,” she said in a news release. “And it was a resounding rejection of the UC’s misguided priorities — chronic understaffing, reckless cost-cutting, skyrocketing management payroll, and exorbitant seven figure pensions for top executives.”

The union says UC has $100 million in annual manager and executive pay at its medical centers since 2008. It also issued a report earlier this year saying that profit incentives are harming patients and providers.

In the time since, 300 jobs have been eliminated at the UC San Francisco Medical Center, in what the university said was a move necessary to cut costs, and UC Irvine paid $1.2 million a whistleblower settlement in a case charging poor patient supervision by anesthesiologists and the falsification of records.

“UC has already given workers and patients a preview of what’s to come if we don’t stand up and demand change today,” Lybarger said.

Dwaine Duckett, UC vice president for systemwide human resources, issued a statement saying that union is attempting to divert attention from its unwillingness to agree to pension reforms.

“AFSCME is attempting to use patient care as a tool in contract negotiations, and potentially endangering public health, which is completely inappropriate. Patients are not bargaining chips,” he said.

The package UC has offered the union includes a 3.5 percent salary increase, he said, noting that workers also received 5 percent raises each of the past two years.

Though the union can call a strike at any time now, it said that it would provide 10 days’ notice as part of patient protection measures.

[Source]: The Davis Enterprise