UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: March 02, 2007

(1) HX Tentative Agreement: All HX Members Vote
(2) Research Short-Changed in UC Wage Proposal
(3) Will Health Benefits Overhaul Hurt?

(1) HX Tentative Agreement: All HX Members Vote
The UPTE-CWA healthcare professional (HX) bargaining team achieved a tentative agreement for a new 5 year contract. The new contract includes wage increases, improvements for professional development, work rules, health and safety and more.

With our member participation, we have won a transition to a step pay plan which will guarantee a step increase for most members in addition to the cost-of-living increases. For many job titles, we made significant strides to achieving market pay rates. In the final week of bargaining, our actions of January 11 paid off with UC conceding that HX would be part of any pension negotiations. A $1,000 lump sum signing bonus will go to all employees on ratification.

The contract does have some disappointments: no retroactivity for pay increases that were due July 1, 2006; excluding HX from bargaining the significant health care changes even beyond the expiration of the contract; allowing UC to continue arbitrarily allocating equity increases where they see fit. Also, not all titles at all campuses were brought up to market rates.

Members must decide if this contract is acceptable. The complete tentative agreement is available for all members online or in the UPTE-CWA offices. A contract summary will be mailed to all members. Non-members can join now or at the polling location to review the agreement and vote. Contact the systemwide office for absentee ballots: phone: (510) 704-8783, email: absentee@upte-cwa.org , fax: (510) 704-8065.

Voting will take place March 26-30. Polling locations will be posted on line and included in the upcoming mailing.

(2) Research Short-Changed In UC Wage Proposal
UC has suddenly made urgent calls to unconditionally offer 2% raises for those making less than 30,000/year and 1% for those making between 30,000/year and 35,000/year. While employees making less than 35,000 deserve immediate wage relief given the cost of living in California, most of the UPTE-CWA represented employees working in research make more than $35,000/year but still remain dramatically underpaid causing ongoing disruptive turnover.

Our current contract brought wages up with step increases but increased health benefits costs and potential pension contributions are already cutting into those raises. If UC is to remain the world's premier academic institution, it must maintain staffing conditions that attract and retain world class staff. The turnover rate remains around 30% annually because staff realize that they have no career trajectory at UC and must go back to school or into the private sector to make a living.

The UPTE-CWA bargaining team will work with our coalition partners to develop a proposal that addresses the concerns of those making desperately low wages but does not exclude other research employees.

The latest coalition pension bargaining updates contain more detailed information about how UC now wants employees to pay back the money they shortchanged from the pension plan with our CAP accounts (special defined contribution accounts set up over the last 15 years).

We have collected more than 8,000 cards to the regents and legislators to hold off on deciding on pension contributions until adequate actuarial studies demonstrate that they are necessary and that when contributions are made, UC needs to do their share. We will be delivering these cards to the regents at their March 14-15 meeting in Los Angeles . We encourage members to participate in addressing the regents at that meeting.

(3) Will Health Benefits Overhaul Hurt?
UC has presented our health benefits committee with plans to reduce the number of health plans offered to our members, claiming that this will help control costs. UC is starting a "living-well" and "disease-management" program to keep down insurance costs. It is also investigating whether or not the use of our own medical centers might save money.

While we appreciate all efforts to keep down costs of our health plans, we are concerned that eliminating plans would reduce health care options for employees. Furthermore, UC has yet to support any specific legislative efforts that will seriously control the main drivers of health care costs-the uninsured, price gouging by healthcare providers and administrative overhead of insurance companies. If UC supported even a couple of research projects to promote health care reform, substantial change could be made. Several campuses have major centers for public policy advocacy.

UPTE-CWA will seek additional advice and input on how we can minimize any cost increases but retain the quality health benefits we currently enjoy.

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.