Kaiser to outsource landscaping at Northern California facilities

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente has confirmed plans to transition its in-house landscaping operations to an external vendor, affecting about 60 unionized gardeners.

John Nelson, vice president of Kaiser, said in a statement that an outside landscaping firm serves at six Kaiser medical centers in Northern California, and the recent decision was made to expand the use of this outside service to the remaining campuses in that region.

The external vendor "provides a comprehensive program for campus landscaping maintenance and management. An integral part of this campus landscaping management program includes enhanced aesthetics, improvement in energy and water conservation, irrigation system management and application of commercial landscaping best practices," the healthcare giant says in a March 8 letter to the Service Employees International Union–United Healthcare Workers West.

Kaiser says the move will affect about 60 employees in the California cities of  Antioch; Fremont; Manteca; Modesto; Oakland; Richmond; San Francisco; San Jose; San Leandro; San Rafael; Santa Clara; Santa Rosa; Stockton; Vacaville; Vallejo; and Walnut Creek. 

Under the plan, affected employees would be laid off as early as May 11, and the external vendor would be responsible for a new workforce that is paid less and receives fewer benefits than current Kaiser employees, according to the union.

"We have a lot of pride in our work, and Kaiser acknowledges we do a great job," said Robert Albino, a Kaiser gardener in Richmond. "so why would they do this to us? Why would they shatter so many lives for so little gain?"

Mr. Nelson countered by saying that  Kaiser will work with affected internal landscaping staff to support training and transition to other jobs within Kaiser, per its existing redeployment agreement with SEIU-UHW.   

"We will be working with our affected internal landscaping staff to provide training and support their transition to other jobs within Kaiser Permanente," he said. "Kaiser Permanente has a proven track record of re-deploying the majority of our employees impacted by job changes to other positions within our organization. Not only do we offer retraining and reassignment, but if for some reason redeployment isn’t feasible, we provide our staff with up to one year of full pay and benefits."


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