AFSCME, the union representing UC patient care and service employees, has announced a strike at UC medical centers and campuses March 3-7, 2014. It is very important that AFSCME-represented employees understand the implications of a strike, and what UC has been offering, and make an informed choice about whether to support a strike.

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Contract negotiations

Q. Why don’t we have a contract yet?

A. UC has presented good proposals and compromised on key issues AFSCME leaders say are important to members to settle a contract. Our comprehensive proposals have called for guaranteed wage increases, excellent benefits and important job protections. AFSCME has rejected our offers.

We have urged AFSCME to present our proposals to employees for a vote, and are disappointed that union leadership instead announced a strike. UC has shown that it can compromise to reach a deal – within the past four months, UC reached agreements with unions representing UC nurses, heath care employees, research support professionals, technical employees, lecturers, librarians and police officers. We are committed to a fair contract for our service and patient care employees but AFSCME must be willing to compromise.

Q. What has UC offered patient care employees and service employees?
A. UC’s contract offers have included:

  • 17.5 percent wage increase over four years for service workers
  • 23.5 percent wage increase over four years for patient care technical employees
  • No rate increases in Kaiser and Health Net paybands 1 and 2, which would protect take-home pay for lower-salaried employees.
  • Per AFSCME’s request, the same pension formula as UPTE and CNA, in which employees would contribute 9 percent of pay. UC previously offered alternatives in which workers would contribute as little as 5 percent, which AFSCME rejected.
  • Improved job protections from layoffs and use of outside contractors.

For the complete offer, see “Facts: UC-AFSCME Negotiations” at and

Any agreement must be financially sustainable. The university has experienced significant cuts in state funding over the past several years, and must make sure that agreements with our unions fit within our budget and preserve the quality of UC.

Impacts of a strike on UC

Q. Will a strike impact patients?
A. There is no question a strike will impact patients. UC will do its utmost to continue to provide care and services to patients who are most in need. However, when a union threatens to strike at our medical centers, UC must begin to take steps such as suspending services in areas where patient needs are less acute. The hospitals may also decrease patient levels prior to the strike and then gradually increase them back to normal after the strike. This could mean suspending critical and elective patient care for about two weeks and reducing staff in those units with reduced patient levels. Patient referrals from outlying communities may be lost, damaging the public trust in our medical facilities. Critical trauma patients may need to be diverted to non-level I facilities, potentially reducing their quality of patient care.

Q: What other impacts are there?
A. A strike that involves AFSCME-represented employees not only affects patients at the medical centers, but also services at the campuses, from student health centers to food service.

AFSCME’s last two strikes in May and November 2013 cost UC about $30 million. The union’s planned five-day strike in March will cost UC about $10 million a day to maintain critical services for patients.

Coming to work during a strike

Q. My manager asked me if I plan to work my scheduled shifts March 3-7. Do I have to answer?
A. Employees are free to decide whether or not to answer this question. The reason we are asking if you will work your shifts is because we are committed to ensuring patient care and safety during a strike, and need to prepare accordingly such as by hiring temporary replacement staff during a strike.

Q. If I don’t answer or if I say I don’t plan to work during the strike, will I be penalized?
A. No. You can be assured there will be no retaliation for how you answer or if you decide not to.

Q. Will UC inform my union about whether I plan to work March 3-7?
A. No. Employee responses will not be shared with the unions.

Q. Will AFSCME-represented employees be barred from coming to work during a strike?
A. No. Under the law, you’re free to cross a picket line and come to work.

Q. If I'm in the union, am I obligated to strike? Can the union penalize me for not striking?
A. No employee is ever obligated to strike. Unions are legally prohibited from threatening or coercing members in other ways to keep them from coming to work. Some unions can fine dues-paying members (but not nonmembers) for working during a strike. A union member who does not want to strike may contact her/his union to confirm there will not be fines. UC won’t deduct fines from employees’ paychecks.

Q. What if I want to work but I’m being blocked or confronted by picketers or striking workers?
A. UC will assist employees who want to work by providing security or transportation across picket lines. Non-striking employees should avoid confrontations and should not invite or engage in any exchanges, which might inflame the situation. If an employee feels s/he is being harassed or prevented from working by picketers or striking employees, the employee should notify their supervisor or campus labor relations office immediately.

Impacts of striking on employee pay, benefits and/or work

Q. If I come to work during a strike, what pay and benefits will I receive?
A. If you come to work, you will receive the same pay and benefits as you normally do.

Q. If I strike, will I lose pay and benefits?
A. You will not be paid for time lost due to participating in a strike. Benefits that are affected by the percentage of time worked during the month may be affected.
Q. Will I lose pay if I’m simply absent from work during the strike?
A. If any employee does not report to work as assigned, UC will presume — absent prior authorization or medical certification — that her/his work absence during a strike period is strike related. Employees who are absent from work without authorization during a strike will not be paid for the absence. As is always the case, authorization for an absence from work (e.g., vacation leave or compensatory time) may or may not be granted, depending on operational necessity and without regard to the employee's reason for the requested leave.