Kaiser Permanente, unions reach agreement

The threat of a nationwide strike has been withdrawn after Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente and unions representing its workers reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract, Kaiser announced Sept. 25.

The healthcare giant said in a news release that the national agreement covers 85,000 Kaiser workers in 11 local unions under the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

The tentative deal includes guaranteed wage increases each year of the contract in Northern and Southern California, Colorado, Hawaii, northern Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Oregon and Washington.

It also includes a new multimillion dollar workforce development fund "to provide educational opportunities for Californians who may not otherwise be able to pursue a career in healthcare," and career growth opportunities, according to Kaiser.

The tentative contract also maintains the current defined benefit pension plan and other retirement benefits. 

"We greatly respect and value our employees who deliver on our mission every day," said Arlene Peasnall, interim chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente Health Plan and Hospitals. "This agreement is a testament to the dedication, compassion and skill those employees bring to work every day and demonstrates that Kaiser Permanente and the coalition have a shared commitment to affordability for our members."

One of workers covered under the tentative agreement, Georgette Bradford, an ultrasound technologist at Kaiser in Sacramento, Calif., also praised the deal, saying it "will allow us to rebuild the worker-management partnership that has been so important to all of us in making Kaiser successful over the last 20 years."

"Reaching an agreement was not easy, it had lots of twists and turns, but in the end we accomplished what we set out to do – reach an agreement that is good for patients, workers and our communities," she added.

The tentative agreement comes as Kaiser workers have been voting to empower their bargaining team to call a nationwide strike beginning Oct. 14, alleging Kaiser has continued to use unfair labor practices and strayed from its community-oriented mission. Strikes were planned at Kaiser Permanente hospitals, medical office buildings and other facilities in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.     

Union members still have to ratify the tentative agreement, which Kaiser and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions reached after about five months of negotiations. 

Kaiser said if workers give final approval, the deal will take effect Oct. 1 and cover 67,000 workers in California; 8,300 in Oregon and Washington; 3,100 in Colorado; 5,000 in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia; and 1,000 in Hawaii. 

Affected employees work in hundreds of job classifications, such as optometrists, pharmacists, maintenance and service workers.


More articles on human resources:

DC region Kaiser workers support nationwide strike
St. Luke's nurses call off strike
Tenet hospitals in 3 states hit with nurses' strike: 5 things to know


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