Kaiser avoids workforce strike with new agreement

Kaiser Permanente has reached a new contract settlement with 80,000 workers based in California, effectively averting a scheduled strike in October.

The unionized workers, represented by Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), had previously voted to strike in October after negotiation talks for a new contract collapsed. The new contract, which still needs to be ratified by workers over the next few weeks, is a four-year agreement that meets many of the demands of the Kaiser union employees.

Many of the specifics of the new contract meet the demands of the workers.

The agreement includes $130 million in funding from Kaiser for a workforce development program over the four-year period, enabling workers to receive free education that will help fill thousands of vacant healthcare jobs that require licenses. It also includes a 3% annual raise for workers in California, Oregon and southern Washington. Workers in the rest of Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia will receive 3% raises in the first year of the contract, followed by 2% plus a 1% lump sum for the next three years.

“This agreement 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,” Georgette Bradford, an ultrasound technologist at Kaiser in Sacramento, said in a statement. “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.”

The agreement further includes full protection of retirement benefits for current and future employees as well as expansion of benefits in Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia and D.C. Kaiser also put the kibosh on subcontracting with a ban and stronger restrictions on outsourcing. The contact finalized a joint effort “to revitalize the worker-management partnership,” and established a committee for technology issues so patients are receiving the highest-quality care with the best tools and caregivers.