Bargaining To Begin for State of California Doctors

Bargaining for the new State contract is set to begin on June 4, 2008. The second meeting is scheduled for June 18, and both sides will continue to meet every other Wednesday until an agreement is reached.

Over the last few months, hundreds of doctors employed by the State of California took the time to meet with UAPD staff members and elected officers to discuss their goals for this latest round of bargaining. Zegory Williams, UAPD’s lead negotiator, travelled around the state to attend more than 20 worksite meetings, and was joined at many of them by UAPD Executive Director Al Groh and UAPD President Stuart Bussey, M.D.. Despite the size and diversity of the group of State Doctors UAPD represents, several common themes emerged from the worksite meetings, such as the need to reform Continuing Medical Education (CME) and on-call payment, and the members’ shared commitment to keeping medical care under the control of actual practitioners rather than bureaucrats.

In addition to those who attended meetings, many more doctors completed and returned surveys which were analyzed at the UAPD headquarters in Oakland. As expected, the survey respondents expressed an interest in improving salary and retirement benefits, but also a strong desire to improve working conditions and fringe benefits, including CME payment, on-call compensation, and paid time off. Several survey respondents observed that the dramatic salary improvements of the last 18 months combined with the disastrous condition of the state budget today make this a good time for the Union to focus on improving working conditions and fringe benefits rather than seek dramatic salary improvements.

One exception to this approach clearly reflected in the survey responses is the need to aggressively pursue equity for the doctors of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and Department of Health Services (DHS), who were not included in any of the nine pay increases that UAPD State doctors won last year. While the budget situation makes any attempt to dramatically improve wages an uphill battle, equity is a fight the Union must undertake, so that no portion of the bargaining unit gets left behind while others see improvements.

UAPD staff and doctors continue to make the final preparations for bargaining. Soon UAPD will deliver a “Sunshine Proposal” to the State, which is a list of the proposals the Union plans to make over the course of bargaining; the Union expects to receive the State’s Sunshine Proposal at about the same time. The Union will also send a detailed Information Request to the State, to collect the data needed to support and refine proposals as the bargaining process continues. Of particular interest is information about the number of outside contractors the State has chosen to employ, and the cost of relying on contractors rather than permanent staff. The Union plans to use this and other data to demonstrate that offering a high-quality contract, one that is able to attract new doctors and retain those currently on staff, is more financially prudent than relying on higher-cost, lesser-quality, contractor-based care.

UAPD is committed to keeping all State doctors in the loop for this and every round of bargaining. Please visit the new, improved website at www.uapd.com and click on the State Doctors link to find regular updates as bargaining progresses. There you can also send UAPD a personal (non-employer) e-mail address to get regular e-mail updates about bargaining delivered to your inbox.