UC, Workers Return to Table, Two-Day Strike Called Off

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

University of California service employees, working for 10 months without a contract, have scrapped plans to walk off the job for two days this week and are back at the bargaining table. 

Negotiations started Friday morning, went on Saturday and continued Monday and Tuesday, according to William Schlitz, spokesperson for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.  

UC Berkeley custodians earn about 25 percent less than comparable workers at nearby Laney College, Schlitz told the Planet. 

What workers want is not limited to better pay and benefits, however, Schlitz said. It’s about creating working conditions such that workers want to stay in their positions, rather than move to other jobs.  

“There’s a lot of value in the consistency of the work force,” he said, “Look at the UC Berkeley police chief.” 

Schlitz was referring to the retirement and rehiring of UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison last summer. Harrison retired last summer and got a lump-sum retirement payment of $2.1 million. She was then rehired at her rate of base pay, $175,000 annually (plus a merit increase that was to come in October 2007) and a stipend of $12,700 for “extra responsibilities.” 

Then there’s the cost of the new UC president’s dwellings. Incoming UC President Mark G. Yudof will live in a 6,800 square-foot home in Oakland, which the university will rent, with furnishings, at $11,360 per month, increasing to $11,750 per month in the second year. The university will pick up utilities expected to be about $2,025 per month.  

(It is estimated that it will cost around $9 million to repair the 13,000 square-foot house in Kensington where UC presidents regularly live.) 

The question of the police chief’s pay and the university president’s rent, according to Schlitz, shows “it’s not an issue of resources—it’s an issue of priorities.” 

UC spokesperson Nicole Savickas said funding for different needs comes from different sources, so payment for renting the house would likely come from different funding than paying worker salaries. She added that she did not know with certainty what fund the police chief’s salary and the house are paid from. 

Savickas further pointed out that, even within the AFSCME workers, funding and therefore salary is not the same for hospital workers at university medical centers and the service workers at the campus. 

The hospital workers are being offered a 4 to 15 percent increase the first year, she said, making them competitive with the general market. 

Other university employees such as food service, grounds and security workers are funded through the state and are facing California’s budget shortfall. They’re being offered 2 to 13.5 percent increases “to address the most serious lags,” Savickas said.  

“We have proposed reopening wages once we have the final budget from the governor,” she said.