A judge today barred a limited number of critical care employees from walking off the job, but nearly 13,000 patient care workers are due to go on a two-day strike tomorrow at the UC Davis Medical Center and four other University of California hospitals.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown today granted an injunction sought by UC officials to prevent workers including respiratory therapists and burn unit and neonatal care workers from going on strike.
A statement by UC officials claimed victory in keeping some workers performing "essential functions critical to patient health" on the job. But union representatives claimed the judge's order merely confirmed concessions they already agreed to - while allowing a strike to go on.
As the two sides in a bitter labor dispute traded charges earlier Monday of threatening patient care, UC officials had said an injunction would only force some key medical employees back to work - not prevent major disruptions in hospital services.
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which represents nearly nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, operating room scrubs and other health care workers, has voted to go on a two-day strike beginning Tuesday. The strike would affect the UC Davis Health System and hospitals for UC San Francisco, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Irvine.
The union, which is resisting University of California demands for increases in employee pension contributions, claims the strike is about hospital staffing that has been reduced to dangerous levels. UC officials say the walkout is over an intractable contract dispute over wages and benefits.
"Patient care is endangered ... due to a wage dispute that is primarily over pensions and benefits," said Dwaine B. Duckett, the UC system's vice-president for human resources said at news conference Monday at the UC's Office of the President in Oakland. He added: "The union has come out with an incongruous message about patient care when they are preparing to go out on strike, which attacks patient care."
Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for AFSCME, countered that the UC's claim of concern "about patient safety" was "hogwash."
"This strike is about patient safety," he said. "The issue is chronic understaffing and reckless cost cutting."
Stenhouse said the union employees, whose average salary is $55,000, also aren't willing to pay an increased pension share "to subsidize the oversized entitlements of top executives" of the UC system.
UC officials say the UC Davis Health System has cancelled 45 surgeries, including cancer procedures and more than 500 radiological procedures in anticipation of the strike.
AFSCME had said it will keep weekend level staffing in critical areas, such as neonatal and burn units, during the walkout and that some strikers will go back to work if medical emergencies arise.