BY LIBBY RAINEY AND JESSIE LAU
After a drawn-out negotiation process concluded unresolved, the University of California announced Tuesday that it will implement its last offer on wages and a revised pension plan to more than 8,000 service workers employed by the system.
The move comes after a string of failures in the negotiation process between the university and the workers’ labor union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299. The university and union entered negotiations in October. The union’s service workers — which include custodians, food-service workers and gardeners employed by the university — have worked without a contract since February. Having exhausted the option of bargaining, the university is legally allowed to move forward with this plan, according to a UC press release.
Service workers from AFSCME 3299 will now be subject to a two-tiered pension plan. Employees previously contributed 5 percent of their pay toward their pension, but those hired prior to July 1 must now contribute 6.5 percent. Those hired on or after July 1 must give 7 percent. The university will also contribute 12 percent of employee pay to workers’ pensions — an increase of 2 percent.
“Really, we prefer to solve these things at the table with our unions,” said UC spokesperson Shelly Meron. ”(Increasing employee contributions) is something that we have to do to make sure that our pension program is healthy in the long term. We couldn’t just sit by and do nothing. We had to make some changes.”
But AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, who works as a gardener at UC Berkeley, said the university’s offer exacerbates everyday challenges and essentially equates to a pay cut for her and other workers.
“What this imposition does is it cuts at least $50 to $70 from low-wage workers’ paychecks every single month,” Lybarger said. “That equals a tank of gas to get to work, cost of parking at work, putting money away for our kids’ Christmas presents, and it’s the cost of a prescription.”
In July, the university imposed these pension reforms on more than 12,000 patient-care employees, who were also members of AFSCME 3299. Lybarger said the union has asked to meet with incoming UC President Janet Napolitano but did not say whether the union planned to strike.
Paul Roose, a state-appointed mediator brought in during the collective bargaining process, supported the two-tiered pension plan in a report issued in August. He called the bargaining process between the parties “dysfunctional.”
ASUC Senator Briana Mullen said the university’s decision threatens students’ rights to negotiate with the university and said she plans to write an ASUC bill asking the university reconsider its options.
“It’s really atrocious to think that the university can move forward without compromising,” Mullen said. “Students themselves have a stake in this game. They are affected by the way UC is sidestepping organized labor on campus.”
[Source]: Daily Californian