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Kaiser Permanente strike averted after workers agree to labor pact

OW Staff Writer | 9/27/2019, midnight
After five months of intensive negotiations, Kaiser Permanente..

After five months of intensive negotiations, Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of 11 unions have reached a four-year labor agreement that covers 85,000 employees around the nation—most of them in California such as the Lancaster facility—and staves off the prospect of a strike.

The draft agreement provides for annual pay increases and maintains what Kaiser calls “excellent” benefits while also creating a program to reduce the national shortage of health care workers, according to a Kaiser statement.

“If ratified, the agreement will position Kaiser Permanente—including its members, employees and local communities—for a sustainable future as the organization works to make its high-quality, integrated model of care even more affordable and accessible in all its regions,” the statement said.

Arlene Peasnall, interim chief human resources officer for Kaiser Permanente Health Plan and Hospitals, said management members “greatly respect and value our employees who deliver on our mission every day. 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.”

The agreement, according to the statement, includes:

—Guaranteed wage increases each year through 2023 in Northern and Southern California, Colorado, Hawaii, northern Virginia, Maryland, Washington, C.). Nnrthwest (Oregon and southwest Washington);

—Opportunities for career growth: Kaiser Permanente employees will have the opportunity to move into new roles in a training capacity after pursuing the education needed for the job, at an adjusted Step 1 pay scale (and a guarantee they will not make less than in their former position;)

—Workforce Development Fund: A new multimillion-dollar fund will be created to provide educational opportunities for Californians who may not otherwise be able to pursue a career in health care;

—Retirement security: The agreement preserves the existing defined benefit pension plan along with other “strong” retirement benefits;

—Outsourcing: The parties have agreed to a list of jobs that will not be outsourced or subcontracted for the life of the contract;

—Career mobility: The agreement offers an additional $250 for employee travel as part of the tuition reimbursement program, raising the total to $750;

—Affordable health care: The agreement includes a pharmacy utilization approach that incentivizes employees to utilize the more efficient mail-order prescription service.

The tentative agreement was reached by Kaiser Permanente and union negotiators Tuesday following nearly five months of “active bargaining” that began in April 2019. It will now go to coalition union members for ratification, with voting expected to be completed by the end of October.

If ratified, the contract will go into effect Oct. 1 and cover more than 85,000 health care employees: 67,000 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.

Coalition employees represent hundreds of job classifications, from optometrists and pharmacists to maintenance and service workers. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions comprises 11 local unions from three international unions.