FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
University of California: Progress in Talks with Nurses Union
With three issues left to be resolved, UC officials “optimistic”
At the close of the first phase of mediation, the University of California (UC) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) reached an agreement on the issue of retiree health benefits. The parties agreed that no changes will be made to the health benefits offered to current retirees through the expiration of the current contract (June 30, 2007). A “side letter” was signed by both parties to resolve this first of four issues. UC and CNA began re-opener bargaining talks in April to finalize a contract between the five UC medical centers and more than 8,500 unionized nurses.
The mediator will continue to try to help the two sides resolve three remaining issues: meal/break issues, health benefits and wages. “The purpose of mediation is to find places to move to common ground,” said UC's executive director of labor relations Howard Pripas. “That's happened here and we're hopeful the union will be able to move in other areas as we go forward.”
Meal/break issues: UC negotiators will continue to resist a system that would create a rigid schedule of breaks and meals for nurses. Pripas cites “faith in the professionalism of our nurses. We want nurses to have their meals and breaks at a time that reflects their own professional judgment, balancing scheduling needs and patient care.” The only way to avoid the penalties the union proposes for missed breaks or meals would be through a more structured scheduling of meals and breaks for nurses. The University believes nurses oppose a move to a rigid meal/break schedule.
Health benefits: All UC employees receive generous health coverage as a part of a larger benefits package. The union demand for special benefits for their members would result in either UC paying more for RN benefits than it pays for other employees, or other employees subsidizing health care costs for nurses. Pripas called both options “unacceptable.” UC has proposed that nurses receive the same health benefits offered to all other employees.
Wages: UC is committed to providing good, competitive wages for UC nurses. The University has offered incremental improvements to nurse wages in addition to average salary increases of over 13% that UC nurses received in 2005 and earlier this year. UC negotiators have provided both the union and the mediator with compensation survey data that supports UC's position and offers.
"We're optimistic. The key to resolving the remaining issues is the willingness of both sides to be reasonable and to come to common ground,” Pripas offered.
For more infor mation about the university's negotiations with CNA:
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