After a yearlong impasse, the University of California has reached a tentative labor contract with 11,000 patient care workers.
The pact calls for the minimum wage for workers at the system's five medical centers to be raised to $14.50 an hour over five years. It also provides salary parity for existing employees and new hires, sets up a step system to reward workers for years of service and guarantees extra pay for overtime work. Officials with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will recommend that its members ratify the contract when they meet early next month.
Still without a contract are 8,000 custodians, groundskeepers and other service workers also represented by the federation. UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said the state budget crisis is "a major factor" in limiting what the university can offer.
"All employees deserve to be compensated fairly, not just those in the union," Schwartz said. "But raising salaries that lag behind market rates systemwide would require massive resources, hundreds of millions of dollars."
But the president of Local 3299, Lakesha Harrison, pointed to UC's recent spending on executive salaries and construction and said the university could well afford to use the patient care agreement as a standard for the service workers.
"The university has proven time and time again they are only prudent with their lowest-paid workers," Harrison said.
-- Gale Holland