Researchers' Union Contests UC Labor Practices

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A union representing University of California postdoctoral researchers filed charges of unfair labor practices against the university Wednesday, 16 months into formal negotiations between the two parties.

The scholars, who are represented by the United Auto Workers union, are alleging the UC committed 13 violations of the state's Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act over the course of the negotiations, including regressive bargaining, failing to provide requested information and misrepresenting university policy.

California's Public Employees Relations Board will assess the allegations and either issue a complaint stating a violation has in fact occurred or provide the union with a warning letter and an opportunity to amend the charges.

If a violation has occurred, the board will mediate a meeting between the two groups, according to Les Chisholm, division chief in the board's office of the general counsel, who said case lengths vary depending on the complexity of the charges filed. The union's charges are nearly 50 pages in length.

The charges come after a congressional hearing in April that examined the sluggish negotiation process between the university and the researchers, who voted to unionize in November 2008.

According to Matthew O'Connor, UC Berkeley's member of the union's bargaining team, 31 of 35 issues have been settled between the two groups. He said the remaining four issues - health benefits, wages, the right to strike and appointment security - remain contentious topics up for debate.

Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president for human resources, said in a statement released Wednesday that university will continue to negotiate with the union.

"This is another pressure tactic by the United Auto Workers," Duckett said in the statement. "As we recently testified at a congressional hearing on the same topic, the university is thoroughly committed to reaching a fair agreement with the UAW. The process is a difficult one, given that this is the first contract for previously unrepresented employees."

Javier Panzar is the news editor.Contact him at [email protected]

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