SAN DIEGO - About 13,000 employees at University of California hospitals statewide -- including UCSD Medical Center -- will hit the picket line Monday to begin a five-day strike over allegations of unfair labor practices, although last-minute negotiations are planned Friday night in hopes of averting the walkout.
Patient care technical workers -- those who perform MRIs and similar procedures – voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299.
Pickets are planned from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and next Thursday and Friday, with noontime rallies each day at UCSD Medical Center's Hillcrest facility in San Diego and Thornton hospital in La Jolla.
Similar pickets are planned throughout the week in Irvine, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Northern California.
Union officials said labor talks are planned Friday, so it is still possible the strike could be averted.
The union contends the UC system has unilaterally implemented contract terms and benefit cuts, and has made an 11th hour demand for new layoff powers.
The union said it filed unfair labor practice charges against the university.
"By repeatedly and illegally subverting the collective bargaining process, UC has created unnecessary conflict and sabotaged our good faith efforts to improve patient care at UC hospitals," said Randall Johnson, a union leader and MRI technologist at UC San Francisco. "The frontline workers we represent know that if left unchallenged, UC's serial lawbreaking will ultimately endanger the patients we serve. And we are not going to let that happen."
Labor organizations have long complained about staffing practices at UC hospitals.
Dwaine Duckett, vice president of UC human resources, said "perpetuating conflict by threatening patient care" has become a recurring bargaining tactic for AFSCME leaders.
"This is patently unfair to the people we serve and our other dedicated hospital workers," Duckett said. "Our patients are not bargaining chips, and strikes are disruptive to the entire medical center community."
He said his focus was on achieving a fair contract with the employees, but his statement did not address the union's allegations.
AFSCME said it will leave 51 employees in place in critical positions, including burn units, intensive care units and dialysis.
Also, they will form a task force that will respond to any major medical emergencies that arise while they are on the picket line, union officials said.