Last week, after more than a year of gridlock, the University of California and union negotiators reached a preliminary agreement on a five-year labor contract for over 11,000 UC patient care employees.

According to a press release, the agreement between the UC and local Chapter 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees stipulates a $127 million total wage increase over the next five years, while also retaining all health care benefits from the previous contract. If ratified by AFSCME the week of Nov. 10, the agreement would immediately go into effect from the date of ratification until September 30, 2012.

Shelley Nielsen, the UC’s chief negotiator for the contract, said she felt the institution and the union had reached a just agreement.

“Our patient care employees play a vital role in helping UC medical and student health centers deliver top-quality patient care,” Nielsen said in the press release. “We believe the agreement was a fair compromise and one that supports UC’s goal of offering employees competitive wages and benefits.”

William Schlitz, political communications director for AFSCME, said the new contract proposal accounts for the implementation of a pay-scale contingent on seniority, as well as the implementation of a statewide minimum wage of $14.50 an hour.

“This wage increase is a historic win,” Schlitz said. “It’s been an issue in the past as to whether the UC would use their money for other things or prioritize taking care of workers.”

UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said, if approved, the wage increases would raise salaries for AFSCME members to levels competitive with other private hospitals.

“[UC hospitals] are under different and sometimes higher pressure because they compete with the private sector,” Schwartz said. “But in general, these increases will put AFSCME wages to market levels.”

Meanwhile, AFSCME remains locked in negotiations with the UC for a new contract for 8,000 UC service workers, whose contract expired at the end of January 2008.

Additionally, AFSCME Chapter 3299 is trick-or-treating at UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang’s home and office to today in an event dubbed ‘Spooky Wages.’ Campus workers and students plan to meet at Cheadle Hall at 8 a.m. and noon, and the Chancellor’s house at 8 p.m. to petition Chancellor Yang for higher wages.