Health & Medicine

84,000 health care workers in California, other states vote to ratify contract with Kaiser

More than 84,000 health care workers voted to ratify a new four-year collective bargaining contract with Kaiser Permanente, backing an agreement that provides for annual wage increases and certain limitations on outsourcing, the health care giant announced Friday.

“This agreement will help to keep Kaiser Permanente a great place to work for all and is aligned with our commitment to greater affordability for our members and customers,” said Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president and interim chief human resources officer for Kaiser Permanente. “We are grateful for our skilled and compassionate employees who are dedicated to our members, patients, communities and each other.”

The company announced that it had a tentative agreement Sept. 25 with its Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions representing workers from three unions — the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the Office and Professional Employees International Union and the Service Employees International Union.

Coalition members have touted the deal because it assured an investment of $130 million in a health care academy to develop and sustain the health care workforce of the future and because it provided that Kaiser would not sign new outsourcing contracts for existing jobs held by coalition members.

These unions represent workers at 11 local chapters in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Virginia. The coalition’s largest local chapter, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, represents roughly 57,000 health care workers in California. SEIU-UHW announced Oct. 16 that its members had approved the contract.

The agreement gives workers in California and the Northwest region an across-the-board wage increase of 3% a year. In Colorado, Hawaii, the mid-Atlantic states and Washington, workers will get a 3% wage increase across the board in the first year and 2% in subsequent years. They will also receive a lump sum payment equal to 1% of pay in the final three years, and if the company meets certain sustained performance targets, that lump sum would convert into an across-the-board wage increase of 1%.

Management will also work with labor to set up a committee that will work to ensure that Kaiser’s caregivers can apply a patient-centered approach when integrating cutting-edge technology. Both sides also agreed to continue to seek innovative ways to improve job conditions and lower costs while also advancing patient care.

The tentative labor agreement was reached about three weeks before a strike that the union had planned to begin on Oct. 14.

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Cathie Anderson covers health care for The Bee. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid out of pocket for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, with roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American-Statesman.