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UC reaches tentative contract with nurses, averting walkout

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The University of California reached a tentative contract agreement with unionized nurses at its medical and student-health facilities, averting a one-day walkout that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

The four-year agreement still needs to be voted on by the 11,700 UC nurses who belong to the California Nurses Assn., or CNA. Contract highlights released by UC call for annual 4% pay increases through 2017.

The nurses have agreed not to join in a one-day strike on Wednesday in sympathy with a walkout still scheduled by the AFSCME local 3299, which represents 22,000 patient-care workers, custodians and food workers at UC’s five medical centers and 10 campuses.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with CNA that maintains competitive market wages and benefits for our hard-working nurses and recognizes the excellent patient care they provide every day at our medical centers and student health centers,” Dwaine Duckett, UC vice president for systemwide human resources, said in a statement.

Joe Lindsay, direction of the CNA’s  University of California division, said Sunday that he expected the membership will be pleased with the contract and approve it in an upcoming vote. Beyond the pay raises, he said a crucial item is that the proposed contract keeps pension benefits for new nursing hires the same as those for more veteran workers.  

Meanwhile, AFSCME 3299 officials say they continue to plan for the Wednesday walkout as a way to protest what they contend are unsafe staffing levels and unfair labor practices.

That union conducted a two day strike in May.

UC’s vice president Duckett said that AFSCME is “once again putting patient care in the middle of a labor contract dispute. The union should not use our patients and students as bargaining chips.”

AFSCME says that its medical workers will perform their duties to help the critically ill and to aid in any emergencies.

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 larry.gordon@latimes.com

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