Health care workers for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California began a three-day strike Wednesday in what their union says in the largest of its type in U.S. history after contract negotiations failed to produce an agreement.
The strike by the union representing Kaiser employees nationwide began on the East Coast at 3 a.m. Strikes throughout Southern California started at 6 a.m.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a Kaiser spokesman told City News Service the talks were continuing “and could last into the night.”
According to Kaiser “several agreements over specific provisions have been reached” with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, and the health system’s negotiators are prepared to meet around the clock until we reach a fair and equitable agreement” and avoid a strike scheduled to start at 6 a.m.
Kaiser issued a statement Wednesday regarding negotiations.
“Both Kaiser Permanente management and coalition union representatives are still at the bargaining table, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement,” the statement issued by Terry Kankari, Senior Media Relations Specialist for Kaiser, said.
“There has been a lot of progress, with agreements reached on several specific proposals late Tuesday. We remain committed to reaching a new agreement that continues to provide our employees with market-leading wages, excellent benefits, generous retirement income plans, and valuable professional development opportunities.”
On Monday, Kaiser officials said a strike “is not inevitable and it is certainly not justified. Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens Kaiser Permanente as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access.”
The union, however, continued circulating plans for picketing that is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. Wednesday at Kaiser locations throughout the state if contract talks fail — with 75,000 Kaiser workers expected to take part across California and several other states.
“Kaiser executives are refusing to listen to us and are bargaining in bad faith over the solutions we need to end the Kaiser short-staffing crisis,” Jessica Cruz, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center — one of the planned picket locations — said in a statement released by the union Monday.
“I see my patients’ frustrations when I have to rush them and hurry on to my next patient. That’s not the care I want to give. We’re burning ourselves out trying to do the jobs of two or three people, and our patients suffer when they can’t get the care they need due to Kaiser’s short-staffing.”
According to the union, there will be additional pickets at Kaiser facilities across the state, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties.
Additional picketing would be done at Kaiser facilities in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to the union coalition.
The workers’ contract expired Saturday, but bargaining continued over the weekend and again Monday and Tuesday.
Among the workers involved in a strike would be licensed vocational nurses, emergency department technicians, radiology technicians, ultrasound sonographers, teleservice representatives, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians, certified nursing assistants, dietary services, behavioral health workers, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, transporters, home health aides, phlebotomists and medical assistants, union officials said.
The union has accused Kaiser of cutting performance bonuses for employees, failing to protect employees against subcontracting, offering wages that fail to keep pace with inflation and falling short in efforts to maintain adequate staffing levels.
According to Kaiser, the company is offering “across the board wage increases,” with a minimum wage starting at $21 an hour. The health care provider denied allegations it is slashing performance bonuses and raising premiums for members without any relation to health care costs or improvements in care.
“In Southern California, where our wages significantly exceed market levels, we are offering wage increases of 10% over four years plus lump sum bonuses of 4%, to keep our employees well compensated,” according to Kaiser.
Source: NBC Los Angeles