University of California hospital strike averted by last-minute deal (Updated)

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Union officials say a planned strike by thousands of University of California hospital workers has been averted after contract talks produced a deal.

The proposed four-year contract will keep 13,000 patient care technical workers on the job, an AFSCME spokesman said. The deal was reached early Sunday morning after negotiations that began Friday night and stretched nearly around the clock over the weekend.

"It's a good deal," said ACSME local 3299 spokesman Todd Stenhouse. "It addresses the core issues that our members have been raising now for nearly two years, principally around issues safety and staffing. It also provides fair wage increases and benefits security— and I might add, provides to UC its top priority, that of pension reform.  So I think it's a balanced agreement." 

Thirteen thousand  union members took part in the vote to authorize a strike Monday after the hospitals decided to impose new contract terms that included additional layoff powers. The contract changes affect UC technical workers who run the MRI machines, serve as pharmacy, operating room and hemodialysis technicians and perform other technical procedures at the hospitals. 

The University of California released a statement praising the deal as a "true compromise" that "ends nearly two years of very challenging negotiations and serves as a foundation for UC and AFSCME to build on going forward." 

Stenhouse agreed, saying the agreement will reset relations between the administration and union.

"It puts us back on a good-faith footing, which is what was so desperately needed," he said. "And we certainly hope that while we're never going to agree with UC on all the issues and obviously there are great challenges facing the system, that it will begin an era of ongoing dialogue and a search for common solutions that benefit the patients, the students and the communities we serve."

The University of California's statement included some highlights from the compromise:, which include 

  • Wages: across-the-board and step increases totaling 24.5%, similar to what UC nurses agreed to, along with a ratification bonus
  • Health benefits: rate freezes for lower-salaried employees
  • Retirement benefits: The same pension formula as AFSCME service works and UC nurses
  • Job security: Revised language on layoffs and contracting out to protect employee jobs.

Local 3299 represents UC's largest union of over 20,000 workers.  The contract covers the next four years.

With contributions from Eric Zassenhaus

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