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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait…

By Stuart A. Bussey, MD, JD, UAPD President
 
Believe it or not, this phrase was coined by a British advertising agency to emphasize the virtue of  patience in waiting for Guinness ale to be correctly poured into a mug.  But it also applies to our UAPD members who wait patiently while their bargaining teams negotiate contracts for them.

Late last month the UAPD State Bargaining Team reached a Tentative Agreement with the State of California.  While the team strongly recommended ratification of the agreement, we all knew that not everyone would be completely satisfied by what the contract contains.

Over the course of 10 months and 34 sessions, our bargaining team tried its best to fashion a contract that would equally benefit all classes. Our base General Salary Increases (GSI) for all members minus retiree health contributions (OPEB) netted over 8%, comparing favorably with other state bargaining units.  In addition, some classifications at some facilities got Special Salary Adjustments (SSA) and/or Recruitment & Retention (R&R) differentials. You can see in the Summary of the Economic Tentative Agreements that there are definitely some big winners.  But what about the Physician and Surgeons in the prisons without the R&R? The unequal R&Rs for DSH Physician and Surgeons? Or for that matter, all of the Psychiatrists, in CDCR and DSH, who got no bonus money?

Believe me, our bargaining team was aware of these differences and argued vigorously for equal treatment for all of our members.   UAPD’s first economic proposal was for 4% GSIs every year for everyone plus significant R&R differentials for any classification in any understaffed facility.  The State countered that they were unable to afford such increases, and admitted that their focus on CDCR Physician and Surgeons was influenced by the Receiver and Federal Courts. We responded by organizing, and our strike authorization vote definitely helped sweeten the deal for everyone.  Because we eventually met our goal for across-the-board increases, because of the high probability of a strike injunction, and because of the late date in the legislative budget cycle, the team decided to give members the ability to vote on the tentative agreement.  We think overall it is a good contract that you should ratify.

If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s the power of the Courts to push the State beyond its limits on pay increases.  We intend to use this strategy in a way that will benefit more of our members.  A well constructed lawsuit is now in front of Federal Coleman Judge Kimberly Mueller as I write. It seeks to provide substantial raises to psychiatrists in the prisons because of chronic understaffing and overdependence on telemedicine. I will be calling on some of you to provide evidence and support for this suit, starting with this poll:  CDCR PSYCHIATRIST STAFFING ISSUES

Success in that suit could positively influence DSH psychiatry salaries as well.  We are also working with attorneys to further pursue the salary inequity of DSH Physician and Surgeons.  The recently signed Fair Pay Act, which guarantees equal pay for equal work in California, might be the best line of argument to fix that problem.  I do think good things will come to those of you who were disappointed that this contract did not deliver more.  To all of our UAPD members, whether in State, County, or other  venues, who are experiencing ‚Äúnegotiation  frustration‚ÄĚ — please hang in there.   We will celebrate with a mug of Guinness when your patience is rewarded.