SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Patient care technical workers at UC San Diego and their counterparts at UC facilities across the state Tuesday began a three-day strike amid a labor dispute focused salary issues and demands by the employees' union for an end to the outsourcing of jobs.
More than 15,000 workers represented by Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were involved in the strike at UC medical centers, with more than 9,000 AFSCME service workers and roughly 15,000 UPTE-CWA technical workers joining them in solidarity.
Locally, picketing was underway at UC San Diego's main campus and its Hillcrest and La Jolla medical centers, but UC San Diego Health officials said those locations remain operational.
"All UC San Diego Health hospitals and clinics will remain open and fully functional. All scheduled surgeries and procedures are expected to proceed," UC San Diego Health said in a statement. "UC San Diego Health's first priority, now and always, is to provide our patients with safe, high-quality medical and surgical care. We serve many of the region's sickest and most fragile patients. Any patients who may be affected by the strike will be contacted by our patient care teams."
The strike comes roughly five months after more than 53,000 service workers across the UC system staged a three-day walkout in May.
AFSCME officials contend they have sought to address the outsourcing issues during labor negotiations, but the university decided last month to impose employment terms on the workers, prompting the union to warn that the move would risk more outsourcing while flattening wages, raising healthcare premiums and lifting the retirement age.
"We've bargained in good faith for over a year to address outsourcing at UC because it creates unequal and insecure circumstances that workers must struggle with every day," said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. "Instead of joining us in an effort to arrest these alarming trends, UC has insisted on deepening them -- leaving workers no option but to strike."
In addition to the outsourcing issue, the two sides are also far apart on salaries. UC officials say the labor strife is due to workers making too high of a demand for wage increases.
"AFSCME leaders' demand of an 8 percent annual wage increase -- nearly triple what other UC employees have received -- is unrealistic and unreasonable. UC cannot justify to taxpayers or the rest of the university workforce this excessive wage increase, especially for a group already earning at or above market rates," according to a statement released by the university. "Now union leaders are throwing a tantrum for the second time in five months, putting their agenda above the needs of patients, students and the public. It is unfortunate that AFSCME leaders still have yet to glean a simple lesson from their May demonstration: their combative stance is harmful and ineffective."
The UC is offering the union a 3 percent raise along with a one-time payment once a contract is approved by union members.