UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: October 12, 2005

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(1) Ouch! UC Health Benefits Cost Increases Hurt!
(2) UPTE Stops Benefits Increases for TX/RX
(3) CA Senate Hearing Slams UC Labor Relations
(4) Proposition 75 Silences Public Employees

(1) Ouch! UC Health Benefits Cost Increases Hurt!

UPTE has attended many meetings this summer to find out about UC's plans for benefits and to provide input. But now UC has dropped a bombshell – it's implementing big increases in premiums and co-pays. Days before notices go out to employees, UC announced increases averaging 29.4% or $10.99/month for UPTE-represented employees. The increases disproportionately impact employees with a spouse/partner and/or children. For families, the rates go up by 45.7% or $29.50/month on average. This increased benefits cost amounts to a pay cut for most employees.

UPTE will join with other UC unions to protest these changes. Most of the increase comes not from higher costs of the plans, but from UC shifting its costs to us. This November, join UPTE and other unions at UC Benefits Fairs on each campus to get more information and take further actions (details forthcoming). UC provides you with release time to attend the Benefits Fair – give them a piece of your mind on work time!

This year's increases are part a master plan by the University to dramatically increase the amount that employees pay for their benefits. One UC projection has employees paying an average of $337/month by 2010. And there's even worse in store for our retirement, with UC's plans to exclude new employees from the defined benefit program, transforming it a less stable 2-tier pension plan. UC also has plans to degrade or completely eliminate retiree health benefits as well as start substantial employee contributions to keep the existing defined benefit plan afloat. More details of UC's plans, including UC's own documents, are available on the UPTE benefits webpage.

(2) UPTE Stops Benefits Increases for TX/RX
Immediately upon learning that UC planned to implement the dramatic new benefits increases in the tech (TX) and research (RX) bargaining units, UPTE filed for an injunction and filed an unfair labor practice charge, stating that this change would be a violation of the status quo. A very similar charge by union-represented UC lecturers was sustained just last year, and UC is currently paying millions in reimbursements.

Initially, UC refused to stop the increases, claiming “operational necessity.” Now, however, UC's outside counsel has communicated to UPTE that the University will not implement the new rates for UPTE-represented TX and RX employees. This means premiums won't increase, and UC will have to set up a reimbursement system for the additional $5 co-pay for doctor's visits. We are optimistic UC now sees the light, but will pursue our injunction request if it does not.

(3) CA Senate Hearing Slams UC Labor Relations
In the third of five State Senate Higher Education Sub-Committee hearings on the dismal state of UC's labor relations, State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) read verbatim from the UC clerical bargaining fact-finding report, in which a mediator found that the University has plenty of money to give better raises even when it does not get enough from the state. Senator Speier demanded that UC respond to an existing legislative request for turnover and vacancy savings, and advised UC that she would be considering a state audit of this report.

UPTE president Jelger Kalmijn testified about how the bargaining process does not work because UC “stall[s] until employees get so tired of waiting for raise they will take any contract, and when that tactic fails UC just imposes terms and condition.” Just before the hearing, UC had refused to schedule any more bargaining sessions with UPTE unless we agreed to go to impasse. The day after the hearing, UC scheduled five bargaining days to continue the process of settling our contract with no strings attached.

Senator Speier warned UC that she would continue to conduct these hearings to hold UC accountable until UC's widespread labor relations problems were fixed. While the legislature cannot directly order UC to take actions, the public scrutiny by legislators sympathetic to employees certainly helps pressure UC.

(4)  Proposition 75 Silences Public Employees
As you consider how to vote in the November 8 “special election,” take special note of Proposition 75. The reason this measure is on the ballot is because unions have been politically effective against the governor's attempted take backs. Nurses, firefighters, and public employees have defended our defined benefit plans, as well as supported education and other public services. Proposition 75 would make it impossible for unions to effectively conduct these fights in the future. If Proposition 75 passes, the governor will put another ballot measure up next year to outlaw our retirement plan, and we won't be able to defend ourselves.

Governor Schwarzenegger has been on a national and international blitz to raise corporate funds to silence public employees, in preparation for taking away our benefits and retirement. Corporate interests support this campaign because they know that passing such measures in California will set a national trend.

For California's public services and for our own sake, please consider your vote on this proposition very carefully. UPTE-CWA advocates a “no” vote on Proposition 75. For more information see our legislative webpage on Prop 75.

The UPTE E-Bulletin is prepared by UPTE-CWA President Jelger Kalmijn for all members.
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to write him at president@upte-cwa.org. If you wish to have dialogue with other members about UPTE-CWA issues, sign up for our web forum.