A deal between the state and health professionals in California's state prisons and hospitals has been made that includes double-digit raises and five-figure bonuses.
This agreement was made with two groups: Union of American Physicians accounting over 1,700 medical professionals that work for the state as a prevention of a strike that was authorized by union members last month along with the upcoming deadline for Legislature approvals for new laws. The state will be ordered to give $227.5 million according to CalHR.
The contract is a two-year agreement that will offer a 3 percent salary increase with implementation starting July 1st of this year to 2.5 percent next year, a common deal with other unions have made with the state. Also, special salary adjustments and range increases will boost some workers' pay by 15% or more.
“I feel good about it,” said Stuart Bussey, the union's president. “Everybody got a little something.”
Psychiatrists take the biggest wins here in this deal whose work is done at least 50 percent on-site. An analysis from CalHR about the deal shows that psychiatrists will net bonuses each month worth 15% of their salaries. According to the Sacramento Bee, “…starting six months after the contract is ratified, psychiatrists will have the opportunity to take on additional casework at a rate of 135% of their per-hour base pay.” The premium pay for extra hours will hopefully reduce the amount of work given to external contractors, Bussey said.
The average starting salary is around $286,000 for state psychiatrists, that are guaranteed a $42,900 annual bonus along with other differentials that fall under certain eligibility.
“It came down to the very last couple of hours,” lead negotiator Patricia Hernandez said of the 15% bonus. She added that she'd spoken to union-member psychiatrists who were ready to quit their state jobs and look for work in the private sector if the state didn't meet their offer.
“The state knew that we were ready to strike, and we let them know that we had to have movement on that additional money,” Hernandez said.
“Many job classifications will receive special salary adjustments, and bumps in the maximum salary range will give experienced employees an extra boost,” mentioned by the Sacramento Bee.
Sixteen roles, including podiatrists, public health officers and medical consultants, are on deck to receive 5% pay increases on top of the across-the-board raise. Physicians and surgeons will earn a 3% boost in their maximum salary range, and dentists will earn a 5% adjustment. (Sacramento Bee 2023).
Eligibility for a long-term salary pay pathway for all employees is also into effect with this union-built deal. According to the Sacramento Bee, “After 12 months of service, an employee can earn an additional 1%, all the way up to seven years at 7%. Employees with more than seven years of service will receive a one-time payment of $10,000.”
Family leave with 6 weeks of 50 percent paid leave is also granted to members of the union, ranging from new parents to caretakers of ill family members. There is also an exchange opportunity for members to make a plan with accrued leave to earn completed pay.
Start of the strike was planned to be in full force last week, Bussey said. Union leaders sent a letter to CalHR on Aug. 28 that stated their intent to follow through with a work stoppage if the state couldn't come to an agreement that week.
“It is clear that the UAPD and the state are at an impasse,” read the letter, reviewed by The Sacramento Bee, which was signed by Bussey along with R. Douglas Chiappetta, the union's executive director, and Hernandez. “We are putting you on clear notice that we intend to strike.”
In the Sacramento Bee's article, “Earlier in August, the physicians' union had notified the Public Employment Relations Board that they intended to strike. PERB subsequently notified Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration that it could seek an injunction that would require essential employees to remain on the job, according to filings obtained through a Public Records Act request.”
Bussey said he was glad the union didn't have to go through with the work stoppage. The sticking point was that 15% pay differential for psychiatrists.
“It's the hardest job in our union,” Bussey said of the psychiatrists. “They just want to be recognized for their work.”
There will be a diversification of ways for members to get involved with shaping policies for a better future of the workforce and for the union. For example, Bussey mentioned that policy literacy is a priority in making a law for on-call doctors to only report to when it's an emergency so that they are able to sleep despite their position of urgency support. The state will work with the union over the next few months to define what “urgent” means.
“Other than the money, your voice in how this place is run is really important,” he said. “They wanted their voice heard.”
The contract is continued to be ratified, and Newsom has to give the final approval before it goes into effect. The physicians' union is the second-to-last union to reach a deal with the state. State scientists have not made a deal yet according to the union.