Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions

CIC Approves Joint Recommendations, Remains Far Apart on Economics

LMP tri-chairs for Alliance National Bargaining

LMP tri-chairs attend 2021 KP-Alliance National Bargaining. Left to right: Hal Ruddick, executive director, Alliance of Health Care Unions; Steve Shields, senior vice president, National Labor Relations and Office of Labor Management Partnership; and Jim Pruitt, vice president, LMP and National Labor Relations, The Permanente Federation. 

Safety and dispute resolution gain traction

Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions agreed on several significant issues this week as the full bargaining team resumed negotiations that they hope will lead to a new national contract.

With the current contract set to expire September 30, however, the Alliance and KP remain divided over key issues – including wages and benefits.

Labor and management representatives, meeting as the Common Issues Committee, approved subcommittee proposals to improve patient and worker safety, and the dispute resolution process.

Initial recommendations approved this week include:

  • Creation of a simple reference guide about the dispute resolution process.
  • Development of an annual refresher training for members of unit-based teams and LMP councils to strengthen their interest-based problem solving skills. Just-in-time training also would be offered to issue resolution participants.
  • Expansion of the Total Health section in the National Agreement to emphasize mental health and psychological safety as well as physical health.
  • Formation of a joint, national committee to integrate the concepts of psychological safety and Just Culture, enterprise-wide.  Efforts will encourage staff to air concerns without fear of punishment and emphasize a culture of shared accountability in which systems errors are scrutinized as closely as individual errors.

Other subcommittees are working on issues related to economics, racial justice, and staffing, backfill, and the use of travelers.

Because of concern about the spread of COVID-19, this bargaining session took place virtually. A small group of union and management representatives – including the LMP tri-chairs – met in person where they followed social distancing, masking, and other safety precautions.

What’s next

Labor and management leaders will review the remaining subcommittee recommendations and try to break a deadlock over wages and benefits.

Kaiser Permanente asserts it urgently needs to rein in costs. KP leaders say above-market compensation paid to union workers, along with wage and benefit increases that outpace the competition, are undermining efforts to make care more affordable and grow membership on the scale needed to stay competitive.

Alliance leaders counter that KP does not, in fact, pay significantly above competitors, can afford fair raises, and is advancing proposals that will worsen staffing shortages. Furthermore, union leaders say KP’s proposals fail to recognize the sacrifices made by frontline workers that enabled the organization to maintain strong profitability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

National bargaining is scheduled to resume September 8-10.

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