The University of California reached a tentative agreement Thursday with the union that represents 8,300 service workers, averting a strike that had been scheduled for UC's 10 campuses and five medical centers next week.
UC's four-year agreement with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 must still be ratified by its members, who include custodial, groundskeeping, facilities maintenance, dietary and food service employees.
Union leaders said the agreement calls for a 13.5% across-the-board wage increase over four years, but UC officials said most employees will get about a 20% pay hike over that period because the agreement also calls for a 4.5% signing bonus and step increases.
If the service workers had gone on strike from March 3-7 as planned, they would have been joined by about 13,000 patient care workers at UC's five medical centers who planned to walk out in sympathy.
UC is still negotiating with the patient care workers and those talks were to continue through Friday.
The patient care technical workers who are the subject of those talks include radiation therapists who treat cancer patients, pharmacy technicians, respiratory therapists and technicians who operate equipment for ultrasound tests, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and mammograms.
UC had been negotiating with the service employees for more than a year and has been bargaining with patient care workers for 21 months. Both groups engaged in a two-day strike last May and a one-day strike last November.
The union said the tentative agreement for service workers includes affordable health care benefits for both current employees and retirees and new safe staffing protections, including limits on the university's use of outside contractors.
Union leaders said that up until now, the pay of UC service workers was so low that 99% of them are eligible for some form of public assistance, with some full-time workers forced to live in their cars.
AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in a statement, "After more than a year of good faith bargaining, we have finally reached a historic agreement with UC that will pull thousands of its full-time employees out of poverty and begin to rectify staffing practices that needlessly put our members and the people they serve at risk."
Lybarger said, "While this proposed settlement includes compromise on both sides, it honors the contributions that career service workers make to this institution, as well as UC's responsibility to build ladders to the middle class."
Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president of human resources, said, "It is good to have this bargaining wrapped up with a deal on its way to our valued service employees."
Duckett said, "We worked hard to bridge gaps on the issues. Ultimately both sides chose compromise over conflict."
Union spokesman Todd Stenhouse said a date for the service workers to vote on the tentative agreement will be set next week.