Health & Medicine

UC and union reach tentative labor deal offering 20 percent-plus raises over 5 years

The University of California has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union representing roughly 13,000 health care, research and technical employees, giving them wage increases of 20 percent or more over a five-year period, a university representative said Wednesday.

The University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119 began voting on the contract on Tuesday, and that will continue through Aug. 7 on UC campuses all around California.

“We are very pleased to have reached these agreements with UPTE, giving our employees the competitive pay and excellent benefits they so deserve,” said Peter Chester, the university’s executive director of labor relations, in a prepared news release. “These employees make significant contributions to UC’s mission and we deeply appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

Members of UPTE-CWA’s research and technical unit will receive wage increases of 22 percent over a five-year contract, and workers in its health care unit will receive salary increases of 20 percent over five years. They also have the potential to earn other increases, based on their experience or performance ratings.

UPTE-CWA leadership did not respond to a call for comment, but they posted a note to members on their website: “We are proud that this agreement contains only improvements and that we did not give up anything compared to our previous contract! This contract would not have been possible without your hard work and sacrifice and that of thousands of UPTE members who struck for the first time.”

Members of UPTE-CWA work in positions such as art therapists, case managers, audiologists, animal technicians, lab assistants, art models and pharmacists on the UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.

The new contracts, if approved by the membership, would expire in fall 2024. The union will get the same health benefits as other employees but will also have a $25 cap on monthly premium increases on the UC’s most popular HMO plans.

New employees will have access to the same pension benefits as current UPTE-represented employees through April 2021, and then either side can bring that back up for negotiation.

The UC reached a similar agreement with the California Nurses Association. UC nurses ratified a five-year contract in October 2018 that they said gave them 15 percent increases in wages over the life of the agreement. They too have the potential to earn salary increases based on experience or performance ratings.

The UC is still in negotiations with its largest labor union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents 25,000 service and patient care workers who occupy low-wage jobs such as admitting clerk, anesthesia technician, MRI technologist, cook, gardener and security guard.

AFSCME leaders have expressed concerns over the income gap between its members and executives and over job security for its membership. The union also filed complaints with state labor regulators alleging that UC is threatening and intimidating its membership.

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Cathie Anderson covers health care for The Bee. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid out of pocket for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, with roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American-Statesman.