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UC hospital strike averted by tentative contract agreement

UnionsJobs and WorkplaceLabor Disputes and StrikesAFSCME

A strike planned this week by 13,000 UC hospital technical workers was averted with the announcement Sunday of a tentative four-year contract agreement.

The pact between UC and the AFSCME 3299 union concludes more than a year of tense negotiations and means that UC’s five major medical centers and numerous health clinics around the state will operate as normal Monday. Up until the agreement, the union for respiratory therapists, operating room technicians and radiology workers had threatened to start a five-day strike Monday and the university had been prepared to hire replacement workers, potentially costing millions of dollars.

The last-minute settlement after a burst of final talks echoes what happened last month with another unit of the same union. That earlier pact avoided a strike of about 8,300 custodians, gardeners and food workers at UC campuses and hospitals.

AFSCME 3299’s two units are considered the most vocal of UC’s labor unions and often stage noisy protests at UC regents meetings. The union held a two-day strike in May and a one-day walkout in November. The two settlements with AFSCME represents a big step in UC President Janet Napolitano’s goal of bringing an era of labor peace to the university; seven other unions, including nurses, previously settled contracts with UC since Napolitano became president six months ago, officials said.

Details of the new contract for healthcare technical workers were not immediately available. The union and the university had long argued over such issues as staffing levels and the amount that employees were required to contribute to their retirement benefits.

AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, in a statement, said the tentative agreement “reflects compromise on both sides, improves safety in UC hospitals, and honors the important contributions that patient care technical workers make to the UC health system every day. Our members are looking forward to ratifying this agreement, returning to work, and doing what they do best—caring for patients.”

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the settlement came after both sides “made significant compromises” and she described the agreement as “a fair and fiscally sustainable contract.” UC leaders hope the agreement ushers in a new era of cooperation with the union in the future, Klein added.

A ratification vote has been scheduled for later this week.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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