As 20,000 union workers prepared to strike and the University of California filed for a restraining order legally barring the employees from walking off the job, both sides yesterday agreed to back down and return to the bargaining table.

In a joint statement, UC officials and representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union announced yesterday that both parties will resume negotiations regarding new labor contracts for UC patient care and service workers.

As a result, the union has called off their systemwide strike, previously set for June 4-5. Instead, the union will meet with the University and a neutral third party on Friday morning to attempt to settle the wage dispute.

For the past 10 months, AFSCME has been meeting with UC executives to negotiate a new three-year contract for the more than 11,000 UC patient care and 8,000 UC service employees of the union. The union has previously called for a 21 percent increase in pay over the next three years as well as the implementation of a step system, in which worker salaries would increase with each year of employment at the University.

However, the two sides came to an impasse several weeks ago and the UC and AFSCME were unable to reach an agreement. The outcome of the gridlock was a week-long vote in which AFSCME members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a two-day strike at all UC medical centers and campuses.

UC officials countered the decision by filing an unfair labor practice charge and requesting a temporary restraining order against AFSCME to bar the union from striking.