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