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USCF Medical Center lays off 300; union cries foul

A local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is alleging a violation of employee rights at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center following the hospital's decision late last month to eliminate approximately 300 jobs. The positions will be cut through layoffs, transfers and an elimination of unfilled vacancies.

AFSCME Local 3299 claims the hospital engaged in unfair labor practices because it it did not properly confer with the union before cutting the positions. California labor law requires employers to confer in good faith with the relevant unions before making layoffs. As such, AFSCME 3299 has filed a complaint with the California Public Employment Relations Board.

The union says the layoffs are particularly troubling considering the already sorry state of hospital staffing. The union recently issued a whistle-blower report alleging that patients have been harmed by chronic staffing shortages. The report alleges problems including bedsores from lack of attention and patients being administered the wrong medications.

The hospital is not claiming that the terminations were made as a result of the report. Rather, it claims that it needed to save money in order to prepare for the changes that are expected to come with federal health care reform. The USCF Medical Center has also undertaken a capital expansion campaign and is in the process of building a new $1.5 billion facility at Mission Bay.

Only time will tell whether AFSCME's claim will uncover labor law violations. However, the incident does highlight the importance of conducting an investigation after mass layoffs or any suspicious firing. In these circumstances, it is important to be sure that employees' rights are protected.

Source: The Daily Californian, "USCF initiates layoffs in wake of whistle-blower report," Mia Shaw, April 1, 2013

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