Kaiser braces for strike that could see 100,000 workers walk off job – Daily News

on Nov13
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Kaiser Permanente is bracing for a potentially crippling strike as nearly 27,000 Southern California workers plan to walk off the job Monday, Nov. 15 in protest of understaffing and wage cuts for new hires they say will worsen the problem.

The Alliance of Health Care Unions, which represents more than 30,000 Kaiser employees in California and Oregon, recently gave management a 10-day notice of their intent to walk out unless the two sides reach a labor agreement.

They’ve since gained support from thousands of other union members, which could bump the  total to nearly 100,000 walkouts.

Employees with SEIU-UHW, which represents 58,000 Kaiser employees statewide including 22,000 locally, began voting this week to authorize a one-day “sympathy strike” on Thursday, Nov. 18 in solidarity with 21,000 nurses and others from United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP).

Kaiser, based in Oakland, said in messages to its members Friday that it is doing everything it can to keep hospitals and emergency and urgent care departments open throughout any union activity. 

A wide footprint

Monday’s strike will affect 366 Southern California hospitals and medical centers in Anaheim, the Antelope Valley, Baldwin Park, Downey, Fontana, Harbor City, Irvine, Los Angeles, Ontario, Panorama City, Riverside, San Diego, West Los Angeles and Woodland Hills.

Workers ranging from nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants, to occupational therapists, appointment clerks and environmental service employees, plan to participate. They are protesting Kaiser’s plan to implement a two-tier wage system that would lower pay for incoming and future healthcare workers.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 10: Kaiser Permanente union workers hold on strike signs during an informational picket outside of the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center on November 10, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Kaiser Permanente nurses and workers are staging informational pickets across California as thousands of Kaiser workers are preparing to strike for higher wages and safer working conditions. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan said the unions oppose the two-tier package, as it would hamper Kaiser’s ability to hire, recruit and retain employees during a severe shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers.

In addressing the plan, Kaiser said the healthcare landscape is changing and the company risks losing ground in its ability to provide affordable care and competitive pricing.

“Looking ahead, we simply must reduce expenses to remain competitive long term,” Kaiser said. “Our wages and benefits represent more than 50% of our overall cost structure.”

Keeping operations going

In a message to members, Kaiser explained how it will shift workloads and cancel some appointments to ensure it remains operational.

“We are actively coordinating with community hospitals and other needed clinical providers to help with patient needs,” the healthcare giant said. “If you need care, visit kp.org/getcare or use our mobile app, where you’ll be able to access all your care options.”

Kaiser is moving some on-site appointments to phone or video visits, while other appointments, elective surgeries and non-urgent needs have been rescheduled or canceled.

“We’ll contact you in advance if there are changes to your appointments,” the healthcare provider said. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

If a walkout occurs, Kaiser said its pharmacies will be temporarily closed, although prescriptions could be filled through its mail-order delivery service.

Kaiser Permanente is bracing for a strike involving nearly nearly 27,000 Southern California workers who plan to walk off the job beginning Monday, Nov. 15 to protest understaffing and wage cuts for new hires that they say will worsen the problem. (File photo)

Wage hikes for existing workers

Kaiser recently offered Alliance leaders an updated proposal the company said would give workers as much as 4% a year in pay increases, with no takeaways to their benefits and retirement programs.

It would provide the potential for 2% pay increases plus a 2% cash payout each year of a four-year contract.

A union representative said the cash payout would be taxable, which means the entire yearly package wouldn’t actually amount to a 4% pay increase.

The two sides are bargaining every day, he said, but it doesn’t appear a resolution will be reached before Monday.

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