UCSF patient care workers launch 3-day strike

More than 15,000 technical care workers employed at 10 University of California campuses and five medical centers across the state including UCSF launched a three-day strike Tuesday morning.

The strike was called in part to call attention to the university’s practice of outsourcing jobs to contract companies. The outsourcing has resulted in “patterns of inequality” as well as lower wages and “little to no benefits” for contracting works, according to a statement released Tuesday by the university’s employee union, AFSCME Local 3299.

Health care workers represented by the union voted to authorize the strike on Oct. 12 with 95 percent support. On Tuesday morning, more than 100 striking workers and their supporters began picketing outside of University of California at San Francisco’s Parnassus Medical Center, many waving signs that read “Stop outsourcing” and “Inequality hurts patient care.”

Union spokesperson Todd Stenhouse said the strike aims to address several core issues, including “a widening income gap at the university between those at the top and bottom and really the outsourcing that is driving it.”

Citing a state audit last year as evidence that UC “is actively replacing career workers,” Stenhouse said that as many as one in 6 patient care jobs at UCSF are being outsourced.”

The strike at five UC hospitals in California comes just weeks after top executives received 3 percent wage increases, said Stenhouse.

“That’s more than hard-working frontline patient care workers — the people that answer the call button, that scan you when you come in with a broken bone — might make in a year,” he said, adding that the strike is a “last resort” for the low-level workers.

Union president Kathryn Lybarger said in a statement that the union has been negotiating with UC for over a year to address outsourcing at UC because it “creates unequal and insecure circumstances” for workers, but that UC’s leadership has not only bypassed bargaining but also imposed employment terms that would increase health care premiums by 61 percent, flatten wages and lift the retirement age.

Upwards of 10,000 workers employed with UC’s service unit is striking in sympathy across the state, as well as three University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) units (Research Support, Technical and Health Care Professionals), according to a statement released by UCSF. The union units represent a total of 7,176 workers across UCSF who have joined the strike.

“Striking employees include clinical staff who are integral to the care and well-being of our patients,” said UCSF in a statement, and indicated that contingency plans have been developed to that include “reducing scheduled surgeries, scheduling clinic visits and outpatient procedures outside the strike dates, delaying elective hospital admissions, and hiring well-qualified temporary workers, where appropriate.”

The university reports that more than 4,200 outpatient appointments have been rescheduled, as well as approximately 241 inpatient surgeries. Some 152 adult infusions and 20 pediatric infusions, and 10 elective hospital admissions have been delayed, and ten acute adult and pediatric patients have been transferred to hospitals.

“The UC Office of the President has been bargaining with AFSCME on behalf of the 10 UC campuses, five health systems and national laboratory for more than a year and is offering fair, multi-year wage increases, and excellent medical and retirement benefits,” said UCSF in the statement.

Health care workers with AFCSME Local 3299 picket outside UC San Francisco Medical Center in response to stalled contract talks with the University of California on the first day of a planned three-day strike on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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