More than 10,000 registered nurses at Kaiser Permanente's 17 Northern California hospitals ratified a new labor contract that will eliminate mandatory overtime as of Jan. 1, except in cases of public emergencies such as earthquakes.
The four-year contract, between Kaiser and the California Nurses Association, is retroactive to Sept. 1.
"This is an extremely important step," CNA spokesman Charles Idelson said. "Mandatory overtime is a major national issue. It is a contributing factor to (nursing) shortages."
The CNA has been one of the most aggressive nurses unions in the nation, and California has been a hotbed of healthcare labor activity.
In addition to the elimination of mandatory overtime, nurses will receive across-the-board wage increases of 26.5% during the four-year contract and increased pension and retiree health benefits.
Kaiser will replace its current 401(k) plan with a defined benefits package for retirees of nearly triple the value. Nurses who retire at age 55 with at least 15 years of service can buy family and dependent health coverage through Kaiser's HMO at a reduced premium. At most, a retiree would pay half the premium cost, with contributions dropping by 5% for each additional year of service.
Also, a float pool was created to allocate registered nurses and nurse practitioners to short-staffed areas where they have clinical expertise and training, Idelson said.