Kaiser Permanente and 11 unions representing more than 85,000 workers reached a tentative contract agreement Wednesday after months of negotiations.
The tentative agreement likely avoids a strike that was scheduled to begin Oct. 14 across six states and the District of Columbia. The four-year contract was approved by the bargaining committee of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions but still needs to be voted on by all union workers. The votes will begin Oct. 1 and continue for about two weeks, according to Rekha Radhakrishnan, spokeswoman for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.
The unions, which are part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and largely represent technicians, occupational therapists and other support staff, received a contract offer from Kaiser that meets their demands, which included a worker-management partnership, a workforce development program and higher wages.
"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," said Georgette Bradford, an ultrasound technologist at Kaiser, in a statement.
Kaiser Permanente officials said the agreement reached demonstrates its commitment to the labor force although the system is no stranger to divisive labor negotiations with unions.
"We may disagree at times (with the labor force), but we have always been able to work through our challenges to align on common goals," said Arlene Peasnall, interim chief human resources officer at Kaiser, in a statement.
The tentative agreement with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions involves a commitment from Kaiser that it will invest millions over four years to funding education for Californians in healthcare specialties with shortages.
Wage increases are also guaranteed. Workers in Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia will receive 3% raises the first year of the contract and then a 2% raise plus a 1% lump sum the remaining three years of the contract, according to the union coalition.
Radhakrishnan said its part of an effort to achieve compensation parity across the system.
The contract also re-establishes a worker-management partnership, an agreement that allows workers to be at the table regarding issues at Kaiser, the union coalition said. For instance, workers will be at discussions about how to use technology appropriately so it improves patient care. The partnership first began about 20 years ago, but it has gradually faded away, Radhakrishnan said.
Finally, the contract includes a list of jobs that will not be outsourced or subcontracted over the four-year contract.