After a yearlong fight for increased pay, patient care workers at University of California (UC) campuses and hospitals have reached a tentative contract agreement with university leaders.

University of California patient care workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 announced the tentative agreement October 20th. The union represents approximately 11,500 patient care workers at the university’s campuses and hospitals, in- cluding the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

“Winning this historic contract has been a long and hard fight for all of our 20,000 plus members,” said Lakesha Harrison, union president. “We stood together and held our position until the leadership of the university agreed to address the crucial issues that affect workers and their ability to ensure quality patient care.

“Reaching this agreement with the university clearly shows that the concerns expressed by our membership about their working conditions were true and needed to be addressed. This contract is an historic step toward UC ensuring a work environment that provides for quality care at every UC medical center.”

The contract must be approved by the union membership and will be voted on early next month.

While union members praised the tentative agreement for patient care workers, the union noted that a contract agreement is yet to be reached for 8,500 service workers at the UC campuses and hospitals. Service employees, including custodians, security officers, bus drivers, parking attendants and food service workers, went on strike in July to call for higher wages.

“Service workers deserve the same rights as patient care workers,” said Jeff Myers, union vice president of patient care at UC-San Francisco.

“Our fight is not over and we will continue to stand together as one union until we have the same victory for service workers.”

University officials have said they strive to offer their employees the most competitive salaries and benefits within available resources. The university has previously offered raises of more than 26 percent over five years for patient care employees and increases in hourly rates from $10.28 to $11.50 or $12, depending on location.

UC officials say they remain hopeful that a fair and equitable resolution will be reached in the contract process for service workers.

According to the union, the tentative agreement for patient care workers includes the following provisions:

— a longevity-based step system which rewards workers for their experience and skills;

— across-the-board wage increases per year that are retroactive to October 15th, 2007;

— establishment of the first-ever statewide minimum wage that will move all workers to a minimum of $14.50 per hour by the end of the contract;

— daily overtime pay after the completion of shift and double time after 12 hours; and

— contract language that guarantees collective bargaining on employee pension and healthcare benefits.

Union leaders said they are confident that a contract for UC service workers will also be reached.