Following five months of negotiations, members of the California Nurses Association (CNA) at University of California medical centers and student health centers are voting whether to accept a recently proposed contract by the UC.
According to a CNA press release, the union’s negotiators are encouraging the 9,000 members who work in the UC system to reject the contract and vote to allow negotiators to call a one-day strike, the date of which has yet to be determined. Voting at UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Irvine and UC Davis medical centers began yesterday and will continue through July 7. Nurses at student health centers at UCSB, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley are also voting. If the union decides to strike, it would be the fourth strike by a union against the University in three months.
According to the press release, the CNA — which represents UC registered nurses, nurse practitioners and anesthetists — believes the proposed contract does not meet its members’ needs. CNA spokeswoman Liz Jacobs said the UC did not offer a stable pension or benefits on which nurses could rely.
“[The UC] wants to be able to make changes to lower benefits at any time,” Jacobs said. “We want to negotiate the pension so it remains that way for the life of the contract.”
Jacobs also said the UC does not offer nurses enough of a competitive wage for them to remain in their positions at UC medical and student health centers.
“The salaries are the lowest of all health care systems in the state and now the pensions are being threatened,” Jacobs said. “Nurses need other benefits to get them to stay in their jobs.”
UC spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis said the UC has done its best to meet the nurses’ demands by proposing suitable wage increases and benefits relative to the money it has to offer.
“The University is offering significant market-based wage increases to help us attract and retain nurses,” Van Nyhuis said. “The union is asking for wages that exceed market rates and this isn’t financially practical for us. It’s competitive to get nurses; there are nursing shortages in California. The wage increase is meant for us to be able to compete.”
Jacobs said 10 registered nurses at UCSB’s Student Health Services are CNA members. While the UCSB nurses could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening, Jacobs said they would give Student Health a notice of 10 days, should a strike occur.
Melinda Gandara, bargaining representative for the UCSB division of the Coalition of University Employees (CUE), said while she cannot speak for CUE as a whole, she would support a strike by CNA.
“I admire CNA and support their position and where they’re headed,” Gandara said. “[CNA’s] argument is similar to ours in that they’re articulating similar needs for a change in pension plans.”
CUE struck against the University’s proposed contract earlier this June. Gandara said the union is still negotiating with the UC and said CUE chief negotiator Peter Chester will bargain with UC President Richard Dynes at UC Davis on July 11 and 12 for additional wages, benefits and parking rates for clerical employees.