The already tense labor relations between the UC system and the union that represents about 8,300 custodians, gardeners and food service workers has taken a turn for the worse.
After deadlocked negotiations, UC this week imposed terms that will require those workers to contribute 6.5% of their pay to retirement plans, up from the current 5%, while the university’s contribution jumps to 12% from 10%.
UC says such changes are necessary to keep the pension system healthy and that most other UC employees already have agreed to the changes. In addition, newly hired workers will receive fewer benefits after retirement.
Officials of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299 say that such an imposed hike amounts to a 1.5% pay cut for workers whose pay averages $35,000 a year. They say they would consider a contribution rate above 5% but only if it is part of a larger pension reform that caps the pensions of the most highly paid UC executives. The union also wants UC to boost the levels of staffing, which the labor leaders contend has dropped dangerously low in some campus functions.
Union local President Kathryn Lybarger said Wednesday that her union retains the right to strike in the future but now hopes to persuade incoming UC President Janet Napolitano, who takes office Tuesday, to take different labor positions than outgoing President Mark G. Yudof.
"It will be her responsibility to come in and turn things around for the better,” Lybarger said.
Dwaine Duckett, UC’s vice president for human resources, said in a statement that the university is entitled to implement its last proposal on the employees after state-assisted mediation and fact-finding failed to produce a contract.
"These terms are fair, fiscally responsible and guarantee our staff quality healthcare benefits as well as attractive pension and retiree health benefits that few public and private employers nationwide offer,” he said.
A similar dispute led to a two-day strike at UC medical centers in May by healthcare workers such as respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and nursing assistants. They are represented by the same union as the service workers but bargain separately.