The labor union representing the largest organized group of University of California employees has ratified its new contract overwhelmingly, raising hopes for a period of labor peace at the university system and its hospitals, officials said Monday.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents more than 20,000 UC employees, including hospital assistants, custodians, gardeners and cafeteria workers, approved the contract by voting margins of at least 98% in its two units, union representatives said.
The ratification came after a nearly yearlong dispute between the union and university over employee pension contributions and retroactive pay raises. Previous agreements that included wage increases were suspended late last year when UC sought to boost employee contributions for pension and health benefits, triggering protest rallies by the union that sometimes interrupted UC regents meetings.
In recent months, the 10-campus UC system has reached agreements with several unions. Along with AFSCME, UC officials also announced Monday that a union representing 350 librarians approved a contract that will make them eligible for merit pay raises.
The AFSCME contract for hospital and service workers "was the biggest in terms of the numbers and certainly visibility," UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said. Further negotiations are still to come with unions representing clerical workers, medical technicians and research lab assistants, Klein said.
Under the new agreement, patient care workers will receive a 3% pay raise retroactive to January, and another 3% for next year. Service employees will get a 3% boost retroactive to Oct. 1, and an additional 3% next October. The minimum hourly wage under the contract will be $13.70 this year and $14.42 next year. The employees' contributions to retirement funds will be 3.5% of pay retroactive to July 1, 2011, and 5% of pay starting July 1, 2012.
Julian Posadas, AFSCME's executive vice president, said the UC contract will provide "protection for the lowest wage workers, so we are happy with that." He also said the union will back off for now from protest activities against the UC regents: "I think we can rest for a little bit," he said.
Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president of human resources, was also pleased. "Moving forward, we hope we can find ways for UC and the union to join forces and work together on issues that are of mutual interest," he said in a statement.