After relations between workers and management and a vote on strike approval drew national attention to Kaiser Permanente, the Managed Care Organization and the Alliance of Health Care Unions reached a preliminary agreement this month, which also includes the completion of Kaiser’s first ever contract with his Hawaii -employees .
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Kaiser is Hawaii’s only Medicare health plan and covers over 259,000 members. Two branches of Kaiser Health Workers – about 60 therapists and over 100 pharmacists – are represented by the United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC / UHCP) under the Alliance of Health Care Unions and has negotiated with the Kaiser leadership throughout the pandemic.
UNAC / UHCP held a vote on strike authorization late last month compared to previously proposed wage cuts for new employees, which was largely approved by both the pharmacist and therapist units.
UNAC / UHCP issued a strike notice to Kaiser, which was subsequently canceled after the parties reached a preliminary agreement on 13 November.
Details of the preliminary agreement, according to a statement from Kaiser, are below:
- Wage increases: Guaranteed overall salary increases every year until 2025 in each region for all Alliance-represented employees.
- Health benefits: No reductions or takeaways to already cheap family medicine and dental coverage with the same low deductible for prescriptions and office visits.
- Pension benefits: The agreement maintains generous pension income benefits and employer-supported retirement medicine.
- Bonus opportunities: Introduction of the Alliance Bonus Plan, which provides annual payouts to achieve new, mutually agreed goals to deal with affordability.
- New safe manning and workload language: Will ensure that every Kaiser Permanente patient receives exceptional care every time and every place.
- Opportunities for career growth: Alliance-represented employees will continue to have excellent career development and advancement opportunities.
- The Alliance and the Kaiser Permanente have agreed to form one National Task Force on Affordability and Competitiveness with specific goals to find innovative ways to address affordable issues while continuing to work together to protect high-quality patient care.
Dominic Cerra, Hawaii pharmacies represented by UNAC / UHCP, said the new agreement would ensure a high standard of care for Kaiser patients.
“What we were primarily fighting for were reasonable salaries, especially for the high quality of care that patients have been known to expect from Kaiser.”
Cerra said reasonable salaries for health workers would both reduce staff turnover and limit the need to hire and train less skilled workers.
Matthew Piskura, an Oahu home health physiotherapist and bargaining team member, said the establishment of a union contract created a transparent workforce-management relationship that allows health care professionals to focus on caring for patients.
“I am a professional physiotherapist – that’s what I’m good at. But by organizing and having a union that represents you, by having members to be part of that union, you get the best of both worlds. [You know] what is [happening] from a professional point of view, but also to have people from a trade union who can help solve problems and advocate for employees. Again, the biggest picture is advocating for the organization as a whole. ”
To ensure that the four-year agreement is complied with throughout its duration, Cerra said there will be a chain of command that union members can contact. A unique steward will be placed at each Kaiser facility to pass on any concerns to management, as well as participate in a negotiation process.
Union members must vote on the preliminary agreement over the next few weeks.
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