Health care professionals at UC medical centers will soon find their paychecks have gained a little weight since their last visit.

The University announced Oct. 22 it had received confirmation from the University Professional and Technical Employees Union that its members had approved a new three-year contract agreement. UPTE represents 2,100 health care professionals at medical centers and student health centers throughout the UC system. The union’s negotiating team had tentatively agreed to the contract in August.

The new contract includes an annual wage increase of 2 to 3 percent for employees at the five UC medical centers: Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

The deal also includes improved benefits for employees who have been laid off. Laid-off employees now have the option of choosing between severance pay, preferential rehire status or a combination of the two.

“The major change is that it is now all up to the employee,” UPTE Local Representative Rodney Orr said. “It used to be up to the University, and they never offered severance pay.”

Should employees choose the combination of severance pay and preferential rehire, their severance pay would be reduced by approximately half, Orr said. The duration of their preferential rehire status would be reduced from three years to one year.

The time that employees have for educational leave will also increase under the new contract. Under the previous contract, employees received 24 hours per year to pursue education pertaining to their job. The new deal increases that number to 40 hours.

“It’s also easier to get approval,” Orr said. “The University now has to give you a bona fide business reason to deny you the time, a reason why they couldn’t spare you from your job for a week.”

Health care professionals at UC student health centers will receive the improved layoff and professional development guidelines but will not receive the 2 to 3 percent wage increase.

“The University said there is no money available for student health centers, so there will be zero raises this year,” Orr said.

A University statement said “hard work, respect and a high level of professionalism on both sides of the bargaining table” were factors in finishing the negotiations in just five months.

“Our health care professional employees play a critical role in helping UC hospitals and student health centers deliver quality patient care, and we are very pleased to have reached an agreement that acknowledges their excellent work,” said Judith Boyette, UC associate vice president for human resources and benefits.