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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