Members of one union are preparing to strike this week despite receiving a new wage proposal from the University of California, while members of another will vote on whether they wish to do the same for their own wage increases.
The UC offered members of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union a new wage proposal May 19 in hopes of preventing their planned statewide strike from taking place this Thursday, UC spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis said. The proposal offers wage increases of 3 percent in the first year, 3 percent in the second year and 4 percent in the third year for all UPTE members. Dominic Chan, UPTE’s system-wide director, said Monday that the contract failed to satisfy members’ demands, prompting the union to reject the offer and go ahead with its plans to strike.
“By being public, we want to send people a message that this is happening,” Chan said. “It seems like the University only notices when you go on strike.”
Bob Stevenson, president of the Santa Barbara chapter of UPTE, said he was not aware of the University’s May 19 offer, but said union members at UCSB are currently planning to strike.
According to its website, UPTE represents over 10,000 staff research associates, clinical and electronic technicians, student affairs officers, analysts and computer programmers throughout the UC system.
Van Nyhuis said employees who do not report to work Thursday without a documented excuse will not receive pay for that day and may be subject to further discipline. The University is considering filing a statement with California’s Public Employee Relations Board against UPTE for what the UC claims is an unlawful strike, he said. The UC is also considering making a complaint against the union for its participation in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union’s April 14 strike, Van Nyhuis said.
“Many of our unions don’t have strike clauses in their contracts,” he said. “The strike is presumptively unlawful if it occurs anytime during the negotiation process.”
Van Nyhuis said the contract offered to UPTE is similar to what AFSCME accepted from the UC after striking last month. He said the wage proposal presented to UPTE was the best the University could offer at the time, but the UC will continue the negotiations this week.
“We are doing everything we can to move things forward,” Van Nyhuis said. “Our offers have not been reciprocated by UPTE.”
Chan said the wage proposal AFSCME accepted is similar to the offer that UPTE received, but there are some clear differences. For example, he said AFSCME workers received a $250 bonus, while the University offered UPTE a $180 bonus for technical workers and a $210 bonus for research support staff.
Union members are unsatisfied with the level of wage increases scheduled over the three-year period, Chan said. The union is also demanding that the UC put money from “turnover savings” back into the wage pool, meaning that when positions long held by certain employees become vacant, the wage of the replacement employee can be lower because of their lack of experience. The monetary difference between the wages is termed “turnover savings”.
Because of low wages, Chan said, UPTE worker positions have a high turnover rate.
“We are trying to encourage people to stay,” he said. “One-third of our members leave every year because they can find jobs in other sectors that pay 30 percent more.”
Meanwhile, members of the Coalition of University Employees (CUE) union, which represents 17,000 clerical workers throughout the UC system, are currently voting on whether to move forward with preparations for their own strike. Voting began last Thursday and will continue until 5 p.m. this Wednesday. Melinda Gandara, the elected bargainer for the Santa Barbara chapter of CUE, said the final decision of whether to strike or not will be made by members of the executive board.