LOS ANGELES (CNS) – With health care workers at Kaiser Permanente poised to launch a three-day strike that their union says will be the largest of its kind in U.S. history, collective bargaining between the health care provider and union negotiators resumed Monday and resumed Tuesday taken up in the hope of averting the strike.
Kaiser officials issued a statement Monday saying leaders met with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and had made progress.”
“We jointly agreed this morning to meet until Tuesday afternoon if necessary to reach an agreement,” said Kaiser. “A strike is not inevitable and certainly not justified.” “Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens Kaiser Permanente as the best employer and ensures that the quality care our members expect from us is affordable and remains easily accessible.”
There appeared to be less optimism on the union side, and they floated plans for pickets starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday at Kaiser locations across the state, with 75,000 Kaiser workers expected to take part.
“Kaiser leaders are refusing to listen to us and are negotiating in bad faith over the solutions we need to end the staffing crisis at Kaiser,” says Jessica Cruz, a registered vocational nurse at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center — one of those scheduled to picket — said a statement released by the union. I see my patients’ frustration when I have to rush them and rush to my next patient. That’s not the care I want to give. “We’re burning ourselves out trying to do this. We’re doing the work of two or three people, and our patients suffer when they don’t get the care they need because of Kaiser’s staffing shortages.”
The union said additional pickets would be held at Kaiser facilities across the state, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties
According to the union coalition, additional picketing would be conducted at Kaiser facilities in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.
The workers’ contract expired on Saturday, but negotiations continued over the weekend and again on Monday. If no agreement is reached on Tuesday morning, or if there is no agreement to postpone the strike, workers will be on the picket lines on Wednesday morning.
Workers involved in the strike include registered vocational nurses, emergency room technicians, radiology technicians, ultrasound sonographers, teledispatchers, respiratory therapists, x-ray technicians, certified nursing assistants, nutritional services, behavioral health technicians, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, transporters, home health aides, phlebotomists and medical assistants, union officials said.
The union accuses Kaiser of cutting employee incentive bonuses, failing to protect employees from subcontracting, offering wages that do not keep pace with inflation and failing to make efforts to maintain adequate staffing levels.
Kaiser said the company is offering across-the-board wage increases, with the minimum wage starting at $21 an hour. The health care provider denied allegations that it was cutting performance bonuses and increasing premiums for members without any connection to health care costs or improvements in care.
“In Southern California, where our wages are well above market levels, we are offering wage increases of 10% over four years plus flat bonuses of 4% to ensure good compensation for our employees,” said Kaiser.
In its statement Monday, Kaiser said the company “has plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide high-quality care should a strike actually occur this week.”