UC counters that it’s not displacing union workers

By Ethan Baron | Bay Area News Group

Even after a state audit two years ago smacked the University of California for not fully following its own policy for outsourcing jobs, the statewide university system has been breaking state law as it secretly contracts out work at several of its campuses, the union representing thousands of UC employees claims in filings with state regulators.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 has filed six charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board against UC’s regents, alleging that UC issues secret contracts, conceals the amount of work it takes from university employees, ignores policies requiring competitive bidding and negotiation with employees, and farms out more and more work by amending and changing contracts without notice. The union, which represents some 26,000 UC employees, claims in one charge that UC exempted a contractor in the UC President’s office from UC’s own policy on minimum pay for contract workers.

The union also claimed, in an analysis separate from the six charges filed last week, that UC documents filed with the state legislature show it increased spending on outsourcing of campus service and patient-care jobs by as much as 52 percent in the past three years. The union estimated that UC outsourced 7,000 to 10,000 full-time-equivalent positions in that time period.

“UC clearly knows what they’re doing is wrong, but they’re pushing the envelope, they’re trying to get away with it, but we’re talking about a practice of serial lawlessness to get that done,” said union spokesman Todd Stenhouse. Union officials on Friday said workers are planning a Nov. 13 strike over the issue at all 10 campuses and five UC medical centers.

Filings by UC with the state legislature showed that it spends $523 million a year to outsource jobs normally done by unionized employees, up from $345 million in 2016, Stenhouse said.

The university system said in a statement that it was reviewing the union’s complaints and would address the claims through the legal process.

“UC workers are not displaced as a result of service subcontracting,” said a UC fact sheet provided by a spokesperson in response to questions from this news organization. “UC is the third-largest employer in California and relies on its more than 225,000 employees to meet the overwhelming majority of staffing needs.”  UC sub-contracts when it needs specialized expertise, to fill short-term or temporary staffing needs, or to provide services and equipment not available in-house, according to the fact sheet.

The university system’s employment of workers from the union has grown by double digits over the past five years, a UC spokesman said.

Stenhouse alleged that there are hundreds of examples of full-time contractors at UC schools applying for and being denied direct employment, and spending years working on campuses for wages much lower than those of UC employees. He noted that the university system professes commitment to social mobility and economic opportunity, but he argued that its staffing practices conflict with those stated goals. “It’s fundamentally shameful and hypocritical,” Stenhouse said. “UC’s tendency to outsource has nothing to do with temporary or unplanned contingencies. This is about replacing more and more employees with lower-wage contractors.”

Campus jobs affected by the allegedly improper outsourcing include tree trimmers, laundry-service, mail-service and food-service employees at UC Berkeley, health-care workers and landscapers at UC San Francisco, and medical-device technicians and office workers at UC Davis Medical Center.

Last week, the state Public Employment Relations Board, which oversees public-sector collective bargaining, backed union claims in one of the six charges, finding that UC may have broken state law by outsourcing certain service and health care jobs without notifying the union or giving it a chance to discuss the moves. The board issued an official complaint to UC, and university officials have 20 days to respond. In a statement, UC noted that the board’s complaint process will lead to a hearing where evidence from both sides is presented, to determine whether the law was broken.

The union claims UC has shut the union from its contracting-out processes, despite UC policies and state law that require it to notify the union of sub-contracting plans and negotiate with workers. “UC is not abiding by the rules set by statute, contract or even its own internal policies. Instead, in violation of state law, UC has granted itself discretion to act unilaterally, executing and expanding contract after contract by exempting itself from the various policies requiring competitive bidding, notice, and negotiation,” the Oakland law firm representing the union said in a summary of the charges.

In 2017, the California State Auditor released results of a probe of 31 services contracts at six UC schools that found two contracts displaced university employees and nine may have led schools to avoid hiring employees. “Some of the university locations avoided competitive bidding by repeatedly amending contracts — one campus originally entered into an agreement with a food services vendor for a maximum term of 7 years and a cost of $74 million, amended the contract 24 times, and ultimately increased the term to 19 years at a cost of $237 million,” the State Auditor said.

In 2016, UC San Francisco, seeking to save $30 million, was revealed to be laying off dozens of technology workers and forcing them to train replacements provided by an Indian outsourcing company.

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[Source]: The Mercury News