UC health center doctors to start 4-day strike Saturday

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Student health center doctors at the five University of California schools in Southern California – UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara – are expected to walk off the job Saturday, returning to work on Wednesday.

Members of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists are staging the four-day job action to highlight what they claim are the UC's unfair labor practices during contract negotiations, says union spokeswoman Sue Wilson. She claims that the university has not provided financial information that the union says it's entitled to review.

Doctors from the five campuses will stage picket lines at UCLA's Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center during "Bruin Day" Saturday and again on Monday, Wilson says. Doctors at UC health centers  in Northern California began a four-day walkout on Thursday. There are about 150 members of the union, including specialists like psychiatrists, she adds.

Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president for human resources, says in an April 3 statement that he disagrees with the union's claims that these strikes are about unfair labor practices.

"The union has refused to discuss these alleged practices at the bargaining table," he asserts.

The health centers will remain open during the strike. The UC says it will use managers who are doctors and medical staff who are not participating in the walkout to provide care. Some non-urgent appointments have been re-scheduled.

Duckett criticized the union's tactic, arguing, "strikes that negatively impact our students will not resolve a labor dispute."

The doctors take their obligations to students' health seriously, counters Wilson. However, members of the union say the short-term cost of strikes is worth the long-term improvement in services, she argues.

The doctors unionized in 2013 and have spent more than a year negotiating with the UC. The union is working toward a contract with wages, benefits and working conditions that make student health centers competitive with other medical facilities, Wilson says.

Doctors at all 10 UC campuses went on a one-day strike in January.