2012 National Agreement Ratified by All Coalition Locals

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and Kaiser Permanente are pleased to announce that all 29 union locals in the coalition have ratified the 2012 National Agreement. Labor Management Partnership teams will now turn their focus to preparing for implementation of the new national agreement, which will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2012.

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Union Delegates Conference Endorses Tentative National Agreement

Over the weekend, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions held a national Union Delegates Conference in Los Angeles with more than 421 delegates representing 29 union locals in attendance.  During this meeting, the delegation reviewed and endorsed the tentative agreement for a new, three-year National Agreement.

The Union Delegates Conference was the first step towards the Coalition of KP Unions’ ratification of the new national agreement. If ratified, the agreement will go into effect on October 1, 2012.

Through this year’s national bargaining process all parties reaffirmed their commitment to working in partnership. The tentative agreement not only covers wages and benefits but also performance goals related to service, care quality, and affordability. Additionally, it establishes the conditions for creating the healthiest workforce in the industry.

The tentative agreement now moves to the local unions for voting. There is no local bargaining associated with this contract. For more information about the bargaining process and the content of the tentative national agreement, see www.bargaining2012.org.

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KP and Coalition Unions Reach Tentative 2012 National Agreement

Early on Friday morning, May 11, Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions reached a tentative settlement on a new, three-year National Agreement. The tentative agreement was the result of hundreds of hours of meetings, brainstorming sessions, discussions, caucuses, and negotiations among 140 labor, management, and physician negotiators who made up the Common Issues Committee. The negotiations were also attended and supported by several hundred union observers representing frontline employees.

The new National Agreement will be the largest private sector union agreement to be negotiated this year, and will form the backbone of what has become the largest and longest-lasting labor management partnership in the United States. It covers wages and benefits as well as performance goals related to service, care quality, affordability, workforce and community health, and workforce development.

The tentative agreement calls for Coalition employees to receive three percent wage increases in each year of the agreement in California, and two percent each year in regions outside California. It preserves all current benefits for the term of the agreement and improves the dental plan. In addition, Kaiser Permanente has committed $19 million annually to the Ben Hudnall Memorial Trust and SEIU-UHW-West Joint Employer Education Fund to ensure career development for our diverse workforce. The agreement also establishes the conditions for creating the healthiest workforce in the industry.

“We are committed to ensuring the future of KP and our unions,” said John August, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “We will continue to take the waste out of the delivery system; we will help KP and our unions grow; we will improve the health of the workforce; and we will improve the health of our communities. Workers are taking the lead on improving – not chopping. Once chopping begins, it’s very difficult to turn back. But improvement, when done right, can go on forever.”

August saluted the dedication and contributions of the 140 CIC members as well as the hundreds of union observers that attended one or more sessions of national bargaining. “The workers of Kaiser Permanente are an incredibly valuable asset to their unions as well as to the organization,” August said.

“I am inspired by what has been accomplished in Partnership and proud to have been part of this enormous effort. Every time we have bargained a National Agreement, we have forged new ground. This time we broke ground with the way we’re jointly embracing strategies to improve the overall health of our employees and their families. I don’t think we could have come up with such innovative strategies to improve quality, service, and affordability as well as working conditions of our organization without having everyone at the table working together in partnership,” said Dennis Dabney, senior vice president of National Labor Relations.

On May 19, about 350 union delegates will review the tentative agreement at a special Union Delegates Conference. If the delegates endorse it, the tentative agreement will then go to each local union for ratification. The Kaiser Permanente Partnership Group (KPPG) will also meet during this time period to endorse the Agreement on behalf of Kaiser Permanente. There will be no local bargaining.

Following are some of the key elements of the tentative agreement:

Benefits
New language was added to the National Agreement to increase the annual maximum dental benefit for Coalition employees from $1,000 to $1,200, and make 403(b) enrollment automatic upon hire. Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition will work together to educate employees about how to better utilize their benefits and help hold down costs. The Mid-Atlantic States region will charter a group to meet about standardizing and simplifying the region’s benefits, and other regions may elect to join the process.

Improving the Partnership
While all UBTs will strive to be high-performing teams, the new targets for high performance are: 60 percent of teams will be high performing by 2013; 75 percent by 2014; 80 percent by 2015; and 85 percent by 2016. High performing teams are those rated at a level four or five on the Path to Performance. Other topics addressed include consistent application of the Path to Performance across regions and facilities, and sponsorship accountability.

Total health
New language in the National Agreement will put Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions on a path to help KP employees become the healthiest in the nation. The Agreement calls for KP and the Coalition to create a program that would reward employees for the collective group achievement of lowered chronic disease risk factors including body mass index (BMI), smoking cessation, cholesterol, blood pressure, and workplace injury rates.

New language will also be added to the contract to require each region to jointly develop a plan to fully implement workplace safety systems to reduce occupational injury and illness.

Growth
It was agreed that the Westside hospital in the Northwest will be opened as a union hospital under the existing contract.

Workforce development
Agreements were made that address career paths, hard-to-fill positions, training, and preceptorships/mentorships. Each regional Workforce Planning and Development committee will develop a regional plan by June 2013 to implement the recommendations of the September 1, 2011 Hard to Fill report and/or subsequent reports. Additionally, within six months of ratification of the National Agreement, each region will implement scope of practice committees.

The new National Agreement will take effect October 1, 2012 and be in effect through September 30, 2015. For more information, see www.bargaining2012.org.

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Subgroups report to the Common Issues Committee

The most recent session of national bargaining was held from April 24 – 26 in Pasadena. As the sessions began, leaders of the five subgroups informed the 140-member Common Issues Committee (CIC) and several hundred observers about their activities at previous negotiating sessions. They educated participants about each issue, and explained mutual interests and options the subgroup developed to address those interests.  Four of the five subgroups presented joint recommendations. The fifth subgroup, which focused on the growth of KP and the unions, did not agree on joint recommendations, but presented to the CIC on the substantial progress made in its negotiations. The options explored by the subgroup will likely be discussed by the full CIC.

The recommendations to the CIC covered only the highest-priority, agreed-upon interests and were the result of dozens of hours of meetings, brainstorming, caucusing, and discussion. The subgroups are benefits, growth of KP and the unions, improving and enhancing the Partnership, total health, and workforce of the future. To date, none of the recommendations have been accepted or rejected by the CIC.  In accordance with the steps of interest-based bargaining, recommendations to the CIC will not be disclosed at this point in the process.

“We can’t share all the details because it could turn on a dime,” said Joan Mah, a member of IFPTE Local 20 and first-time observer of bargaining. “It is all hearsay until the final words are in the final contract.”

“Sitting here and listening to these reports, I just want us to take stock of what’s been accomplished,” said John August, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “To see the commitment and the reflection and the development of every single one of the subgroup participants, it’s just astounding.”

“Every time I come to a bargaining session, I’m impressed with how labor and management come together and express themselves and seek solutions in a collaborative fashion,” said Greg Adams, Kaiser Permanente Northern California region president. “It’s one of the most powerful things we do. It’s truly an amazing experience.”

Parties spent the remainder of their time in management and labor caucuses, evaluating each recommendation in anticipation of further discussion with the full CIC at the next bargaining session.

“Our group worked very hard,” said Jean Melnikoff, senior director of human resources for Southern California and a member of the workforce of the future subgroup. “At times it was frustrating, but it was also really interesting to see how the interest-based process really led us to options we could work with.”

“Things went well in our group and management understood our interests very clearly,” said Tamara Rubyn of OPEIU Local 29 and a member of the benefits subgroup. “Kaiser brought high level decision makers to the table, and that helped get things done.”

In order to make the national bargaining process transparent, hundreds of observers attend each bargaining session. They are then able to go back to their co-workers and explain how interest-based bargaining works and how the negotiations are progressing.

“It’s a good experience,” said Julio Rivera, a member of SEIU-UHW and growth subgroup observer. “We’re reaching out to management to help them understand where we’re coming from. That makes a great communication and helps enhance the growth of Kaiser and the unions. We can express what is on our minds and in our hearts for our members and for Kaiser.”

“It’s extremely informative and truly collaborative,” said Deirdre Kirkwood, a UNAC/UHCP member and bargaining observer. “I am so glad we get to do it. It’s the way it should be for everyone who works for a living.”

The next bargaining session takes place on May 8 – 10 in Los Angeles. For more information, see www.bargaining2012.org.

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Subgroups make progress in national bargaining

The third session of national bargaining was held from April 10 – 12 in San Jose. “We’ve had a long week and we’ve worked hard,” said John August, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, at the conclusion of the three-day session.

“Observers and especially first-time participants have added so much to the process.”

“Our work here has really strengthened my belief in what can be accomplished through interest-based bargaining,” said Dennis Dabney, senior vice president of National Labor Relations for Kaiser Permanente. “This session exceeded my expectations going in. I want to thank everybody involved for their great work.”

This week, the more than 140 members of the Common Issues Committee (CIC) as well as some 130 observers continued to meet in issue subgroups, where they worked on finalizing their mutual interests and brainstorming options that might address those interests. Each subgroup focuses on one of the five issue areas of the negotiations: benefits; growth of KP and the unions; improving and enhancing the Partnership; total health; and workforce of the future.

The subgroups are following the steps of the interest-based bargaining process, which has been used to negotiate National Agreements in 2000, 2005, 2008, and 2010.

During this session, each subgroup worked to develop recommendations for the full CIC to consider. At the next bargaining session on April 24-26, each subgroup will finalize these recommendations and present them to the full CIC.

Here are some of the highlights:

Benefits

The Benefits subgroup has made substantial progress, and the subgroup members are approaching their work with a sense of cautious optimism.

“Considering the difficult task we have been charged with, we have made good progress,” said Gail Heath, a CIC member and business representative for UFCW Local 400.

Building on the work begun in earlier bargaining sessions, the group discussed how best to continue to provide great benefit programs at KP. Among the ways to do this includes education of union members to understand their benefits, their costs, and the best way to use them. The subgroup also discussed strengthening KP’s ability to recruit and retain the best employees.

Growth of KP and the Unions

The subgroup on growth is grappling with two distinct but related issues: how to better leverage the Labor Management Partnership (LMP) to help grow Kaiser Permanente membership, and how to grow the membership of the unions that make up the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

During the first day of bargaining, the subgroup discussed ideas like engaging more frontline employees in retaining KP members and recruiting new ones. Many union members expressed interest in getting out into the community to market KP to union members and community groups. “You see the Girl Scouts out there selling cookies,” said Cindy Klein, a UNAC member and nurse at Riverside. “Well, let’s sell our cookies.”

On the second day of talks, the subgroup took on the topic of how to help grow the membership of the Coalition unions. “For labor this was a hot topic and this was one of the topics that many of us volunteered for,” said Lamont Stone of OPEIU Local 29.

Improving and Enhancing the Partnership

The Partnership committee focused on providing support for unit-based teams and removing barriers that are preventing them from getting to the highest levels of performance.

“The success of our teams depends on ensuring that operational expenses for LMP activities and leader participation are appropriately supported,” said Walter Allen, executive director/CFO of OPEIU Local 30 in the Southern California region.

“At the end of the day, it is about ensuring high quality patient care and establishing the best working environment for our employees and their teams,” said Barb Grimm, subgroup co-lead and senior vice president of the Labor Management Partnership.

Total Health

The Total Health subgroup is developing ways to make Kaiser Permanente’s workforce the healthiest workforce in the industry and lead the way in improving the health of our families and the communities we serve.

Dave Regan, president of SEIU UHW and one of the subgroup’s union co-leads, framed the challenge facing the group: “How do we use this concept of Total Health to bring something innovative and of value to the operation as a whole?”

There is also an inspirational element to the goal—we need to model our own “Total Health” message and help our members and patients become healthier.

“Everyone needs to be a leader for Total Health,” said Tammy Jones, vice president of Healthy Workforce. “Our own employees can be such a powerful inspiration to our members.”

“I am impressed by the collaboration and creativity and commitment people have shown,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president of Employee Safety, Health & Wellness and KP’s Environmental Stewardship Officer, one of the subgroup’s management co-leads.

Workforce of the Future

The Workforce of the Future subgroup is charged with helping KP prepare for future workforce needs, especially in light of new technology, health-care reform, and an aging and increasingly diverse patient and member population.

Subgroup co-leads said they would build on the strong foundation developed in previous national agreements. “There is a lot of rich, comprehensive, thoughtful language here already,” said Kelli Kane, senior director of behavioral health and LMP regional co-lead in Colorado. “We are asking, ‘What do we want to build on? What are the gaps?’”

“We are not trying to rewrite the contract. We are trying to clarify it and to make it happen,” said Diane Bertell, a subgroup co-lead and vice president and business representative, UFCW Local 770.

Positions that are hard to fill were a top concern of the Workforce of the Future subgroup. In September 2011, a committee on the topic formed as a result of the 2010 National Agreement offered recommendations on how to recruit and retain workers in hard-to-fill jobs. Labor and management members of the subgroup discussed ways to speed up implementation of the report’s recommendations.

For more information, see www.bargaining2012.org.

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March 29 Bargaining Update

The second session of national bargaining was held this week, from March 27 – 29, in Los Angeles. Nearly 350 members of the Common Issues Committee, observers from the unions, managers, staff and facilitators participated.

Before they could begin reviewing interests and generating options, members of the Common Issues Committee faced a big task: understanding the status of current Labor Management Partnership programs and other information vital to their subgroup topics. Most of the five issue subgroups (benefits; growth of KP and the unions; improving and enhancing the partnership; total health; and workforce of the future) used the bulk of their time during this session grounding themselves in this data and coming to a mutual understanding of today’s environment.

“I was struck by the sharing of information that is so important to the future of our workers and KP,” said Nate Bernstein, health care director, UFCW Local 7, Colorado and member of the benefits subcommittee. “That would never happen in a non-collaborative or non-partnership bargaining process, and it will let us focus on problem-solving work we need to do.”  Indeed, full information-sharing is one of the hallmarks of the interest-based negotiating process.

With that foundation in place, groups turned to the next two steps in the interest-based bargaining process—agreeing on the issues and working towards mutual interests. Labor and management participants in each subcommittee developed their interests separately and then began jointly working to determine their mutual interests. Interest-based bargaining  is different from traditional bargaining in that instead of taking positions, people focus on interests—what needs to be addressed for an agreement to be reached—and work toward a win-win solution that addresses those interests.

Joe Simoes, the Kaiser Permanente Division director of SEIU UHW and a member of the total health subgroup, observed that “people are being very thoughtful. We are taking a comprehensive approach to health and safety.”

In the next round of bargaining, which is scheduled for April 10-12, subgroups will proceed to the next steps in the interest-based process: exploring options to satisfy their mutual interests and agreeing on recommendations.

“Taking the time to work through all of the information without feeling pressured or rushed has helped us understand the issues, and that will help us come to more thoughtful and effective solutions,” said Maryanne Malzone-Miller, senior director, Human Resources Southern California and a member of the benefits subgroup.

For more information, please see www.bargaining2012.org

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KP and Union Coalition leaders open talks

Nearly 400 members of the Common Issues Committee, observers from the unions, managers, staff and facilitators gathered March 6 in Los Angeles to kick-off negotiations for a new National Agreement.  This is the fifth round of national bargaining since the Labor Management Partnership was created in 1997. These talks are likely to be the largest labor contract talks in the United States this year.

Fundamental to these negotiations is interest-based bargaining, which is significantly different from traditional contract negotiations. “Because we take the time to understand each others’ interests, we have much better outcomes in the end,” said Bernard Tyson, president and chief operating officer. Continue reading

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Negotiations begin March 6 for a new national agreement

An important message from Dennis Dabney, senior vice president, Labor Relations, and John August, executive director, Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions

National bargaining between Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions opens March 6 in Los Angeles, Calif. The negotiations will use the distinctive interest-based bargaining process that guided negotiations in 2000, 2005, 2008, and 2010.  The new National Agreement will serve as both a union contract for 92,000 union Coalition-represented employees; and a full expression of the longest, most complex, and longest lasting labor management partnership (LMP) in US history. The LMP guides working relationships among KP employees, managers and physicians to achieve the best quality, service, and affordability while sustaining KP as the best place to work. A Feb. 2012 study by Cornell University lauded the LMP as positively impacting patient care, cost savings, and the work environment.

We are committed to keeping you informed throughout the bargaining process. Our website, www.bargaining2012.org, includes background information on interest-based bargaining, bargaining calendars, and details on bargaining teams and topics, as well as a place to submit and review questions and answers about bargaining. Additionally, Kaiser Permanente managers will receive an email update after each bargaining session, and union members will receive an update via the Coalition publication InsideOut.

Timeline
The members of the Common Issues Committee (CIC) will kick off bargaining March 6-8 in Los Angeles. More than 140 managers, workers and physicians will serve on the CIC, with many frontline union members observing the process.

We have scheduled four more three-day bargaining sessions thru May. For the full schedule, see www.bargaining2012.org. After bargaining is completed, union delegates will meet to review the tentative agreement and decide whether to endorse it. Local union members will then vote on whether to ratify the new National Agreement, as well as any local agreements (see below). The Kaiser Permanente Partnership Group (KPPG) endorses the Agreement on behalf of Kaiser Permanente. The new National Agreement would take effect October 1, 2012.

Issues
At Kaiser Permanente, the unions, management and physicians negotiate about traditional issues such as wages and benefits. But what makes our organization, and our Labor Management Partnership, unique is that we also use interest-based bargaining to negotiate  topics such as workforce development, service quality and workforce health. Indeed, the cornerstone of our 2010 National Agreement was a bold commitment to nurture unit-based teams (UBTs) throughout the organization. Today, there are more than 3,400 UBTs in every region improving performance in areas as diverse as patient safety, workplace safety, and affordability.

The National Bargaining Coordinating Committee agreed on the following bargaining subgroups for 2012:
•    Improving and Enhancing Partnership — The objective of this subgroup is to develop specific consensus recommendations to improve organizational performance and operational flexibility through the Partnership.
•    Benefits — The objective of the Benefits Subgroup is to develop specific consensus recommendations for active medical, retiree medical and defined benefit pension plans.
•    Growth of KP and the Unions — The objective of this subgroup is to develop specific consensus recommendations for working collaboratively to grow the membership of KP and the partner unions, and for optimizing the Partnership Recognition & Campaign Procedures.
•    Total Health — The objective of the Total Health subgroup is to develop specific consensus recommendations to improve the overall health of the KP workforce and surrounding communities.
•    Workforce of the Future — The objective of this subgroup is to develop specific consensus recommendations to improve organizational preparedness for future KP workforce needs.

Local Bargaining
Whether there will be local bargaining – and if so, how it will work – will be a subject discussed at national negotiations and communicated appropriately.

Interest-Based Bargaining
What we bargain is important, but so is how we bargain. We use an interest-based approach that focuses our attention on shared interests and strives to avoid many of the pitfalls of traditional, adversarial bargaining. To date, interest-based bargaining has resulted in remarkably successful National Agreements that have addressed a range of critical issues. You can learn more about interest-based bargaining at www.bargaining2012.org.

As we head into bargaining this year, we understand the real challenges we face due to the ongoing economic crisis that has put health care out of reach of so many Americans, as well as to the restructuring of the health care industry brought on by the health care reform law. But we are also very proud that our historic Labor Management Partnership is making such significant progress toward transforming health care for our patients and members, and creating a model that so many others in the health care world are seeking to emulate.

Please visit www.bargaining2012.org for bargaining updates.

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2012 National Bargaining Set to Begin March 6

An important message from Dennis Dabney, SVP Labor Relations, and John August, Executive Director, Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions

As the Labor Management Partnership enters its 15th year, Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions are preparing to begin the process of negotiating the fourth National Agreement. The National Agreement covers more than 92,000 union employees, some 20,000 managers and 16,000 physicians in nine states and Washington, D.C.

Our Labor Management Partnership is the most enduring, largest, and most successful of its kind in any industry. It puts industry-leading performance improvement tools into the hands of employees, managers and physicians who participate in unit-based teams to ensure that each Kaiser Permanente patient and member has the best possible experience. These 3,400+ teams are guided by the Value Compass, which puts the member and patient at the center of every decision and helps teams focus on achieving the highest quality, best service and most affordable care, as well as creating the best place to work.

We want to share with you that National Bargaining negotiating sessions will kick off March 6 and are scheduled to take place every other week through May 10. Bargaining topics include: Improving and Enhancing Partnership; Workforce of the Future; Growth of Kaiser Permanente and the Unions; Total Health; and Employee Benefits.

In preparation for National Bargaining, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions held the first of three National Delegates Conferences on January 21.  More than 400 Kaiser Permanente workers representing Coalition unions throughout the organization gathered in San Jose to recommend the Coalition’s bargaining interests and receive training in interest-based negotiating — the negotiation method used throughout national bargaining. The Kaiser Permanente National Bargaining team will hold a similar orientation session next month.

Interest-based bargaining is an alternative to a more traditional, adversarial negotiations process where each party stakes out and announces positions — usually a specific solution to an unstated interest. In contrast, interest-based bargaining starts with each party clarifying broad interests, then seeks to create as many shared interests between the parties as possible. Both parties work on an issue together, explore options, and find a solution that meets the key interests. To date, interest-based bargaining has resulted in remarkably successful National Agreements that have addressed not only compensation, but a range of critical issues such as service, quality, worker and patient safety, organizational growth, affordability, and many more topics that help us all meet the needs of our patients and members.

We are committed to keeping you informed throughout the bargaining process while also minimizing distraction so our organization remains focused on the high-quality care and service of our members and patients. Kaiser Permanente managers will receive an email update after each bargaining session and union members will receive an update via the Coalition publication InsideOut. As in past negotiations, we will have a dedicated bargaining website that will launch next month. The website will provide background on interest-based bargaining, bargaining calendars, and details on bargaining teams and topics, as well as a place to submit and review questions and answers about bargaining.

While negotiations can be a challenging process, Coalition and Kaiser Permanente leaders are committed to the LMP as the best way to advance the mission of Kaiser Permanente and the Unions. We are dedicated to working together as cooperatively as possible, with mutual respect and the KP Value Compass as our guide. Our goal is to achieve the best outcomes for Kaiser Permanente, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, and the patients, members, and communities we serve.

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