UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: June 20, 2006

(1) Unions Delay Pension Decisions Again
(2) UC Refuses to Divulge Health Benefits Plans or Changes
(3) HX Wage Issues on the Bargaining Table
(4) UPTE Dues Change Passes, How Can We Build A Stronger Union?

(1) Unions Delay Pension Decision Again
With executive pay scandals and audits taking all their time, the Regents once again backed away from making controversial decisions on any employee contributions to the pension plan. At the May Regents meeting, UPTE Vice-President Lisa Kermish presented 5000 signatures from employees. Lisa Kermish is one of the many UPTE members not covered by a collective bargaining agreement that would be first affected by any changes to her retirement. She was joined by many other union members who brought in signs stating "Save Our Pensions". The collective statement of the petitions and members present gave a clear message that any abrupt pension changes would be strongly opposed by all union members. At the same Regents meetings Assembly members Romero, Figueroa and Maldonado made an in-person presentation requesting that UC President Dynes resign.

The coalition of UC unions has hired our own actuary to evaluate the stability of the UC pension fund. We all want an adequately funded plan but don't think we should pay unnecessarily for it, especially because our pay already lags our colleagues outside UC.

The next Regents meeting is in July. Leading up to that meeting all union members will wear "Hands Off My Pension" buttons on June 27 and on June 29 actions will be held around the state to impress upon Chancellors that we will escalate our actions opposing any changes to our pension plan at this time.

Get your buttons for June 27 and check with your local UPTE activists about where to participate in actions at your campus on June 29.

(2) UC Refuses to Divulge Benefits Plans or Changes
UC met with representatives of the coalition of UC unions last Monday, June 19, to discuss UC's plans about our health benefits coverage and costs. Despite having many of UC's principal decision makers for the benefits plans present, UC claimed they had "no specific plans" about where they intended going with our benefits costs. They explicitly denied the projections made by the previous benefits director that UC expected employees pay for up to 1/3 of their benefits costs and they unconvincingly stated they had no alternative plan.

UC's unwillingness to be candid with employees about our health benefits underlines the need for us to explicitly bargain our healthcare. In past years, UPTE-CWA and other unions agreed to allow the University to unilaterally negotiate our benefits with insurance companies. For many years that worked and we had excellent benefits at a low cost. Those times have changed.

Benefits coverage and costs needs to be locked in our contracts starting in 2008 when we have to bargain what will happen to our pension plan. We need to know the bottom line of what we will get in our take home check and what our benefits will be.

(3)  HX Wage Issues on the Bargaining Table
The pay for many UC healthcare professionals continues to lag other institutions. The lack of reliable step system that provides us with regular raises in our pay ranges in addition to cost-of-living adjustments means that employees have had to rely on infrequent and uneven equity increases. Fixing this structural problem with how our pay increases work is a top priority for our bargaining team.

Over the last couple years, the UPTE technical and research employees that were on open-range pay systems like the health care professionals moved to a step plan and receive about 5% this year and 6% next year. The nurses already have a step plan that compensates them based on their years of service as a nurse.

Healthcare professionals will be taking part in activities to pressure the hospital CEO's of the need to establish a fair pay plan. Everyone has complicated schedules but we will organize our events so that you can stop by for 10 to 15 minutes to show your support. Stay tuned.

(4)  UPTE Dues Change Passes, How Can We Build a Stronger Union?
UPTE-CWA members voted to switch our dues from a flat cap to a percentage dues over the next decade or more. The vote was 63% in favor of the change.

The resources of the union will gradually increase starting in January of next year.

Soon, the union will focus our additional resources on having members take time out of their UC job to help build the union. We will continue to support health care professionals who are fighting to get step increases and for safe staffing in their contract negotiations. And we will continue to organize unrepresented employees on the campuses and national labs. And should we ever need it, the dues change will allow us access to the $350 million CWA strike fund, giving us additional strength to bargain good contracts.

UPTE-CWA sends out an annual report of our activities and an independent audit of our finances to all members. You should receive this in the next week or two. Feel free to contact us if you do not get one.

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.