Nurse Union Officials Say Schwarzenegger Pension Plan Could Make Some Jobs at UC Facilities Less Competitive
University of California nurses on Tuesday expressed concern that a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to eliminate guaranteed pension benefits for state workers proposed would override ongoing contract negotiations and complicate efforts to recruit candidates for nursing jobs at UC, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Schwarzenegger's proposal would affect guaranteed pension benefits for state employees, including nurses, hired after July 1, 2007. Those employees would receive investment accounts similar to 401(k) plans. The Legislature currently is considering the proposal.
The California Nurses Association in January began negotiations with UC for a contract to replace the one that expires on April 30.
Negotiators for both CNA and UC said that "many employees at the academic medical center[s] accept lower wages for higher pension payouts," the Bee reports. For example, a registered nurse with 10 years of experience at University of California-Davis Medical Center earns $34.27 per hour, compared with $38.61 per hour at Mercy General Hospital and $44.40 per hour at Kaiser Permanente's Sacramento medical center. At Sutter Roseville Medical Center, registered nurses earn $41.79 per hour.
Suzanne DePalma, a registered nurse at UC-Davis and a member of CNA's negotiating team, said, "Our wages at UC-Davis have always been much lower that at other hospitals in Sacramento." She added, "The trade-off is we have always had a pension that is the gold standard compared to other hospitals."
Sharon Melberg, a UC-Davis executive and negotiator for the hospital, said, "If we can no longer offer the same pension we have now, some people are going to leave, and other people are not going to want to come work here."
The university has not taken an official position on Schwarzenegger's proposal.
University of California Board of Regents Chair Gerald Parsky said during testimony before an Assembly committee earlier this month that an end to traditional pensions would damage the university's ability to recruit and train health care professionals.
University of California currently is having discussions with Schwarzenegger's office and legislators about compromises that could give the school more independence in drafting benefits packages.
Dan Pellissier, a spokesperson for Assembly member Keith Richman (R-Granada Hills), said one possibility under consideration is an exemption to the pension overhaul plan for workers considered by university officials to be in high-demand positions that are difficult to fill (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 3/23).