The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union announced on May 10 that its Patient Care Technical (PCT) workers unit will strike on May 21 and 22 across the University of California (UC) system.
UC officials say a strike involving patient care technical employees at its five UC medical centers, including UC San Diego Health, would pose an imminent threat to public health and safety, and improperly withhold health care from members of the public.
UC officials are also disappointed that AFSCME is threatening services to patients as a tactic in negotiations that are mainly about pension benefits. UC has proposed a total compensation package that includes competitive wages, excellent medical and retirement benefits, and good working conditions. Eight unions representing 14 other UC bargaining units have agreed to UC’s modest reforms, which also apply to UC faculty and staff not in unions. AFSCME has thus far resisted these reforms, refusing to agree to any changes.
A strike by AFSCME patient care and service workers will involve more than 2,000 of UC San Diego Health employees, the majority of whom take care of patients and their families. These include patient care assistants, respiratory therapists, hospital lab and imaging technicians, and pharmacy technicians.
An AFSCME strike at UC medical centers will have a significant impact on patients and their families, and medical center operations in general. Patients’ diagnoses and treatments may be delayed because laboratory tests, imaging and other work normally performed by PCT employees cannot be completed in a timely manner. Some elective surgeries and procedures will have to be postponed.
A strike by patient care employees, depending on the duration of the strike, could cost UC San Diego Health more than $2 million due to the cost of contracting for temporary replacement staff, overtime pay for other staff who step up to help cover shifts/take on other responsibilities, and other financial impacts. Not to mention the burden this will put on its non-striking employees. Physicians and nurses will not be on strike and will continue to provide care to patients.
The dedication and hard work of employees at UC San Diego Health, including AFSCME members, allow the Health System to provide some of the best patient care in the country. In return, UC provides competitive compensation and benefits. To continue to provide world-class care and service, UC needs thoughtful engagement from the union leadership of AFSCME.