The union representing the University of California’s 21,000 service workers and patient care employees has scheduled a five-day strike starting March 3, 2014 — which would be their third and longest walkout in less than a year.

Unless a contract with UC is settled before March 3, AFSCME Local 3299 said its 8,300 food workers, custodians, gardeners and other service workers at UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers would walk out for those five days next month. The union’s 13,000 patient care technical workers, such as respiratory therapists, would strike in sympathy, according to a union statement issued Thursday.

The union struck for two days in May and held a one-day walkout in November. It has been locked in lengthy and tense negotiations with UC administrators over such issues as employee contributions to pensions and safe levels of staffing.

“In reality, the cost of a settlement will be far cheaper for UC than the cost of a strike. Over the next 10 days, we hope UC will choose basic fairness over another self-inflicted wound, but that is a choice that only UC can make,” AFSCME 3299 bargaining team member Jose Mendez said in a statement.

UC system spokeswoman Dianne Klein said university leaders “are extremely disappointed that, even as contract negotiations continue, AFSCME leadership has called for yet another strike that that will hold our patients, students and staff hostage and cost the university tens of millions of dollars.” She said UC has offered raises above the general market and the same pension contribution formula that other UC unions have accepted.

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[Source]: Los Angeles Times