Strike called off after unions, Kaiser Permanente reach agreement

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Georgia-based workers had authorized work stoppage earlier this month

Kaiser Permanente workers in Georgia and elsewhere averted a strike when the health care provider reached a tentative agreement over the weekend with a group of unions opposed to changes in pay and benefits.

A new four-year contract covering nearly 50,000 nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants and other technical staff was announced Saturday by Kaiser and the Alliance of Health Care Unions.

The news came after seven months of tense negotiations. Georgia-based workers had voted late last month to authorize a strike to voice their opposition to Kaiser’s proposal. Workers in California were planning to walk off the job today.

“This agreement will mean patients will continue to receive the best care, and Alliance members will have the best jobs,” Hal Ruddick, executive director of the Alliance of Health Care Unions, said in a statement that also announced a cancellation of the planned work stoppage.

The Alliance represents some 3,000 Georgia-based Kaiser workers.

The parties were feuding over a proposed contract from Kaiser that would have implemented a two-tiered wage system giving new hires substantially lower pay and fewer perks. Employees also wanted Kaiser to agree to higher cost-of-living increases for the next several years and commit to hiring more nurses as the coronavirus pandemic continues to stretch workers thin.

The new contract includes wage increases and abandons the two-tiered proposal, while offering new racial justice language to confirm the company’s commitment to closing the wage gap and providing additional money for an educational fund.

“This landmark agreement positions Kaiser Permanente for a successful future focused on providing high-quality health care that is affordable and accessible for our more than 12 million members and the communities we serve. It also underscores our unwavering commitment to our employees by maintaining industry-leading wages and benefits,” said Christian Meisner, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kaiser Permanente.

A vote to ratify the new contract will be held over the next several weeks.