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University of California enters tentative labor deal after two years

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Unions representing more than 12,000 University of California researchers, healthcare and technical workers have reached a tentative labor deal with management after more than two years of bargaining, both sides said on Monday.

Members of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE-CWA) union are scheduled to vote this week on the contract agreement, reached on Friday, that would raise wages by 13 percent over four years, but increase employee pension contributions, the university said in a statement.

Under the pact, workers would contribute 9 percent of their annual pay to pensions, an increase of one percent, in exchange for keeping the retirement age with maximum benefits at 60 instead of 65, the university said.

"It has been a long road and we are pleased that we have been able to work through the issues and negotiate fair terms for our hard-working employees," Dwaine Duckett, the university's vice president of human resources, said in a written statement.

Jelger Kalmijn, president of the University Professional & Technical Employees union, said strong retirement benefits would help the prestigious university system attract and retain desirable employees.

The university is currently in contract negotiations with the union representing about 21,000 hospital workers over pension contributions.

A breakdown in talks led to a strike in May and another employee walkout last month that forced the cancellation of surgeries and the delay of cancer treatments. The clashes accompany other lengthy disputes between California public employees and their bosses over pension reform.

Two unions representing workers for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the nation's fifth largest commuter rail system, have negotiated for more than six months with management over contracts that include increased employee pension payments.

The unsuccessful bargaining has led to two four-day transit strikes since July, causing major traffic jams and stranded commuters in the San Francisco-area.

Union leaders and BART negotiators went back to the bargaining table late last week, shortly after the unions sued to enforce the latest tentative deal reached with its employer.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Andre Grenon)

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