UCSD Medical Center and UC hospital workers on strike

Thousands of health care workers at UC San Diego
Medical Center and University of California hospitals across the state began a
two-day strike on Tuesday, walking picket lines as they push for a new contract. <p>
      UC health officials prepared for the walkout by canceling non-essential
surgical procedures at all of its centers and juggling staff to ensure that
patients are not endangered by the work stoppage, which began at around 6 a.m.  <p>
      The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local
3299 earlier this month announced that its roughly 13,000 patient care
technical workers would participate in the strike. <p>
      Thousands of health care workers represented by University Professional
and Technical Employees, or UPTE, a unit of Communication Workers of America,
said they would honor the strike and would not cross the picket lines today.
Other AFSCME-represented hospital workers also vowed to honor the picket line
in a sympathy strike. <p>
      Patient care technical workers include technicians for ultrasounds, X-
rays, MRIs, mammograms and other tests, radiation therapists for cancer
patients, pharmacy technicians and respiratory therapists, according to UC.
      Those interviewed today said the hospitals did not have adequate
staffing levels. <p>
      “People are leaving, and we're not having workers in (their) place,”
UCSD Medical Center MRI tech Richard Smith told NBC 7/39. “Other workers,
they're asking more and more and more.” <p>
      Another UCSD Medical Center employee, Edith Esqueda, said the lower
number of employees is affecting patient care. <p>
      “It's not safe,” employee Ron Brookes told 10News. “People work long
hours, staying over past their regularly scheduled shifts, and it's affecting
their work performance.” <p>
      UC officials went to court in Sacramento Monday in hopes of halting the
strike on the basis of patient safety, and a judge issued a restraining order
preventing about 100 workers across the UC system from taking part in the
walkout to ensure that vital services would not be disrupted. <p>
      Dwaine Duckett, vice president for human resources at UC, said the
injunction was “more limited than what we were seeking,” and said it was
wrong for the union “to put patients in the middle of a labor dispute and
jeopardize essential services to them as a negotiating tactic.” <p>
      Systemwide, more than 120 surgeries and 350 radiological procedures were
canceled and need to be rescheduled, according to a statement released this
morning by UC San Diego Health Science News. <p>
      Duckett noted that about 180 surgeries and other procedures were delayed
just at UC San Diego Medical Center. <p>
      AFSCME officials, however, have insisted that their strike plan will
ensure that patients continue to receive essential care. <p>
      Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299, said the judge's
ruling in Sacramento “affirms our members' right to advocate for their
patients and reassures the public that there will be no imminent health and
safety risks associated with this week's strike.” <p>
      “The court has honored our members' commitment to protect patient
safety, and to stand up to UC's unsafe staffing practices and reckless cost-
cutting, which are too often putting our patients at risk,” she said. <p>
      UC officials insisted that they have offered a fair wage and benefit
proposal, saying that the sticking points in negotiations are pension
contributions, which would increase for employees from 5 percent to 6.5 percent
in the most recent talks; a new tier of pension benefits for workers hired on
or after July 1; and revised eligibility rules for retiree health benefits. <p>
      According to UC, the latest four-year contract offer includes wage
increases of up to 3.5 percent per year over the life of the deal. Union
officials, however, have accused UC of failing to negotiate in good faith and
limiting worker salaries while earning millions in profits. <p>
      Dr. John Stobo, UC's senior vice president for Health Sciences and
Services, estimated that the strike will cost $20 million across the five
medical centers — UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC San
Francisco. <p>
      Picketing is scheduled to continue Wednesday.

Categories: KUSI