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UC worker strike may affect care of patients

By Katherine Hafner

May 8, 2013 2:22 a.m.

A union that represents patient care technical workers at the University of California announced on Tuesday that its members have voted to authorize a strike to protest ongoing negotiations regarding employee pay and pension changes with the University.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents about 13,000 workers across the UC, and the UC began negotiations in June 2012. The two parties recently reached a stalemate and brought in a third-party mediator.

Last week, AFSCME 3299 held a three-day strike vote, in which union workers voted on whether or not they supported going on strike. This is the second time in five years that the union has voted to go on strike, after mounting a five-day strike in 2008 over contract negotiations.

Thousands of union workers cast their votes during the three-day period at medical and student health centers across all 10 campuses, according to a press release from AFSCME 3299 released Tuesday.

According to the press release, 97 percent of union workers voted to support going on strike.

The dates and length of a potential strike have not yet been finalized, according to the press release.

UCLA-related patient care areas that will be impacted by the strike include Ronald Reagan Medical Center, the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, the David Geffen School of Medicine, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and its community and outpatient clinics, according to a statement from the UCLA Health System released Tuesday in response to the union’s announcement.

It would cost the University millions of dollars to bring in replacement workers to continue providing medical care safely should the union go on strike, according to the statement.

“It is very disappointing that AFSCME is threatening services to patients as a tactic in negotiations that are mainly about pension benefits,” the statement reads. “Our patients are not bargaining chips.”

Both the union and representatives of UCLA have said University medical centers have contingency plans in place in the event there is a strike, but neither party can give more information on the details of the plans. According to the Health System statement, UCLA is currently meeting to identify these contingency plans.

Dianne Klein, a UC spokeswoman, said the union cannot legally go on strike without giving the University a 10-day notice, which the University has not received.

“We find it very regrettable that AFSCME (Local 3299) continues to use inflammatory tactics in the media and we hope they come back to the bargaining table,” Klein said.

Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for AFSCME Local 3299, said the union has not sent any notice to the UC, but plans to respect the 10-day warning period if it decides to go on strike.

The union is also assembling a task force in case UC contingency plans fall through, he added.

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