University Of California Healthcare Workers Threaten Strike
Monday, May 13, 2013
Aired 5/14/13 on KPBS News.
Care at the five UC Medical Centers could be disrupted next week if some 13,000 union healthcare workers go out on strike.
California Nearly 13,000 healthcare workers at University of California medical centers are threatening to go on a two-day strike next week. Workers and the UC system are at loggerheads over a new contract. The previous one expired last year.
AFSCME, the union representing healthcare workers, says UC refuses to ensure adequate staffing at its five medical centers. Union rep Todd Stenhouse said that's creating unsafe working conditions.
"Oftentimes now we're asking fewer staff to do more with less. On a balance sheet, that may look great. If it's your relative or your loved one that's in that hospital, it doesn't look so good," Stenhouse said.
Stenhouse added the union also wants management to stop contracting out healthcare jobs to temps and volunteers.
UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the union doesn't want to talk about the real sticking point.
"The issue is pension reform and what the union has been doing is using the issue of patient safety to scare people," Klein said.
Klein argued the union refuses to deal with the fact that UC has $24 billion in unfunded pension liability.
Stenhouse said the union would be happy to deal with pension reform, but said management isn't playing fair.
"What UC's insisting on, is that its executives take on these huge, huge golden handshakes at the expense of front line care and their lowest-paid workers," Stenhouse said.
UC is attempting to get an injunction to block the strike from taking place next week.
Among those threatening to walk off the job are respiratory therapists, nursing aids and surgical technicians.
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