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UC hospital workers to strike over higher pay and increased staffing

May 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of health care workers at five UC health centers including UCLA and UC Irvine are threatening a walkout that could affect thousands of patients.

About 30,000 health care workers will either walk out or honor picket lines Tuesday in the dispute over proposed changes in pension plans, demands for higher pay and increased staffing.

Patients may have to endure longer wait times for services or not get the care they need all together during the strike.

"We are anticipating some delays in services," said Tom Rosenthal, chief medical officer at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. "We have canceled non-essential services."

The UCLA Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center, has canceled all non-elective surgeries because of Tuesday's strike saying they have to make sure they can deal with major emergencies under a limited staff.

"How are we doing it?" said Rosenthal. "We're doing it with workers who will come to work. We're doing it with supervisory staff. We're doing it with registry staff."

UC officials say more than 120 surgeries have been postponed because of the strike. They had hoped a Sacramento judge would order thousands of union workers to cross the picket lines in order to keep the medical centers operating safely. But the judge on Monday shot that request down, much to the satisfaction of the health care workers union.

UC officials have insisted they have offered a fair wage and benefit proposal and hope to block this strike. But a spokesperson for the union representing healthcare workers say they don't want to go on strike but UC officials have given them no choice because they haven't budged during contract negotiations.

"They forced us to this situation," said Scott Hill. "We don't want to have to go on strike but we're using whatever leverage and power that we have to be able to get a good contract."

A spokesperson said they have already identified their own set of key workers who will be told to cross the picket lines if needed to ensure patients' safety.

"We have a staff of volunteers who are going to be out there," said Hill. "If there's a critical situation, were going to say 'we need for you to go to work immediately'".

Health care workers from hospitals at UCLA, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Davis, and UC San Francisco are expected to participate in the strike.

The two-day strike will likely begin at 4 a.m. Tuesday.


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