Kaiser Permanente workers ratify contract deal after narrowly avoiding strike

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Dive brief:

  • More than 50,000 unionized workers at Kaiser Permanente voted to ratify a four-year contract after months of controversial negotiations and narrowly avoid a major strike.
  • The deal, which guarantees general pay increases through 2025 and a safe new staffing language, will affect employees at 22 unions that report to the Alliance of Health Care Unions. The AHCU took the lead in the negotiations.
  • Union leaders and company management spoke out in favor of the new deal on Thursday, as health systems across the country continue to face serious labor and staffing challenges as the pandemic is approaching its third year.

Dive overview:

Kaiser’s healthcare workers won many of their claims in the new contract.

“These negotiations were difficult, especially since our members are still fighting the pandemic, but in the end, the parties affirmed their common commitment to work together, in partnership, to ensure a better future for union members, Kaiser Permanente. , and to our patients, ”Hal Ruddick, executive director of the Alliance of Health Care Unions, said in a statement.

Workers were adamantly opposed to a proposal by Kaiser officials to create a two-tier wage system, which provided for paying new workers less than the current scale. Union officials feared the arrangement would divide members, create resentment and hamper the organization’s ability to recruit top talent.

Contract negotiations dragged on for months and almost culminated in a strike that was reportedly the largest in the United States this year.

Some Kaiser workers were about to leave work. In October, workers in the Southern California area voted to authorize a strike and sent the required 10-day strike notice to administration officials.

The strike had the potential to cripple operations in the region, as the 21,000 union members ready to strike made up about 28% of the nearly Kaiser’s 76,000 employees in Southern California, where the system manages 14 hospitals and more than 200 clinics.

However, the strike was ultimately avoided as the unions and Kaiser reached a tentative deal in November.

The latest deal also ensures that Kaiser’s unique and historic deal with unions and workers endures.

“This contract reflects our deep appreciation for the extraordinary commitment and dedication of our employees throughout our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring that we remain affordable for our members going forward,” said Christian Meisner, Senior Vice President and Director of Human Resources. head of resources at Kaiser.

Kaiser’s healthcare workers aren’t the only ones demanding better wages and better workforces. Healthcare workers across the country are fighting for better contracts after more than a year of the pandemic that has worn and worn them out.

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