Kaiser workers reschedule strike postponed after CEO's death

About 4,000 psychologists, mental health therapists and other medical professionals at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente have rescheduled a five-day strike that was postponed after the death of Kaiser Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson, the union that represents them announced. 

Kaiser confirmed that Mr. Tyson, 60, died in his sleep Nov 10. After the news, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers postponed the strike, which was scheduled for Nov. 11 to Nov. 15. 

The union said the strike has been rescheduled for Dec. 16 to Dec. 20 and will potentially shut down mental health services at more than 100 Kaiser clinics and medical facilities in California. Union members could decide not to strike if a contract agreement is reached.

"Mental health has been underserved and overlooked by the Kaiser system for too long," Ken Rogers, a Kaiser psychologist, said in a news release. "We're ready to work with Kaiser to create a new model for mental health care that doesn't force patients to wait two months for appointments and leave clinicians with unsustainable caseloads. But Kaiser needs to show that it's committed to fixing its system and treating patients and caregivers fairly."

Kaiser and the union have been working on a contract for about a year. Union members have been calling on Kaiser to reduce patient wait times for therapy appointments and protested what they called barriers to mental health access. They went on strike in December 2018. 

Dennis Dabney, senior vice president, National Labor Relations and the Office of Labor Management Partnership, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, referenced the union's actions during negotiations.

"We have been jointly working with an external, neutral mediator to help us reach a collective bargaining agreement," he told Becker's Hospital Review in an emailed statement. "Last week, the mediator delivered a proposed compromise solution to both sides that we are seriously considering. However, the union has rejected it and announced plans to strike instead of working through the mediated process."

Mr. Dabney said key sticking points in Northern California are related to pay raises and the amount of administrative time that therapists have in addition to patient time. 

In Southern California, the main sticking points relate to pay raises and retirement benefits, he said.

Kaiser said the remaining issues in both areas as resolvable and called on union leaders to continue talks with the mediator and Kaiser instead of striking.  

 

More articles on human resources:
New Jersey medical center nurses strike
California Tenet nurses OK contract
Hospitals and unions: 4 recent conflicts, agreements 

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