2/29/08

AFSCME pay protests disrupt UCLA

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has rejected the newest offer by the University of California bargaining committee, which would have provided a $16 million wage increase for 11,000 patient care technical employees represented by the union.

A UC-issued press release stated that this offer would have raised the “average systemwide pay-rate” for the employees to $20.75 an hour. But Lakesha Harrison, the president of AFSCME Local 3299, said that the raises, stretched over 20,000 workers would only guarantee an approximate 40-cent raise across the board for the union members.

“They’re factoring in the registered nurses who are not in the union and get paid $30 to $40 an hour, and that’s how they can come up with an average of $20.75,” Harrison said.

“It’s disrespectful and a slap in the face. ... We still have people collecting cans to support their families. All we’re asking for is a living wage.”

Harrison added that the union was still demanding a $15 minimum wage for AFSCME workers to be level with other institutions, such as Kaiser Permanente and various community colleges.

“We want to see the $15 minimum instituted immediately. We want also want protection, such as a step system, to prevent (the UC) from taking away our wages over time,” Harrison said.

Other members of AFSCME Local 3299 expressed concern over issues such as high staff turnover, rising parking fees, deficient health care, and small pension.

Ricardo Lopez, a senior patient escort at the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, said that his department suffers the highest rate of turnover.

“The job is hard ­– we do technical support, the lift team’s job, and many of our workers suffer injuries,” he said.

Lopez, who is paid $11.80 an hour for his services, said that for every 3 percent raise the UC offers the workers, parking fees and cafeteria food are raised as well.

“What’s next? Will we take the bus to work? Half of our paycheck goes into food and parking,” Lopez said.

Other union members, responding to the $2.8 million offered to the 9,000 service sector employees, said they felt the UC was trying to divide the service workers and the patient care workers by providing such differences in contract amounts.

But Nicole Savickas, coordinator for human resources and labor relations at the UC Office of the President, said that money for the service sector employees is allocated by the state, not the university.

Savickas added that a systemwide effort had taken place to provide the proposed $16 million increase for AFSCME.

“If they accepted the $16 million, we would still be in mediation. Parking rates are frozen, which is a good thing for AFSCME,” Savickas said.

She added that although the union and the UC had not reached an agreement regarding retirement, health care for the workers had been taken care of for 2008 during December 2007, and had been decreased as a result.

Savickas said that one of the concerns of the UC was extending the duration of the contract.

“I think we’ve been flexible with the duration. We’ve been offering contract extensions with the wage increases. One of our proposals was a three-year contract,” Savickas said.

Savickas said that as of Feb. 26, mediation between the union and the UC will go into fact-finding.

(dailybruin.ucla.edu)

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