LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--At 3:00 am, 140 union, management, and physician negotiators, plus several hundred union observers, representing Kaiser Permanente and the nearly 100,000 members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, reached tentative agreement on a new, three-year national agreement. The largest private sector union agreement to be negotiated this year, 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 3% wage increases in each year of the agreement for California employees, and 2% each year for workers in regions outside California. It preserves all current benefits for the term of the agreement and improves the dental plan. In addition, Kaiser Permanente committed $19 million annually to two existing educational trust funds to ensure career development for its diverse workforce.
The agreement aims to create the healthiest workforce in the industry. It would reward the collective workforce achievement, beginning in 2013, of lower health risk factors including body mass index (BMI), smoking cessation, cholesterol, blood pressure, and workplace injury rates.
“Unions and management agreed that health improvement is an essential strategy for reducing chronic conditions – one of the leading drivers of rising, unsustainable cost,” said SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan. “Workers want to set an example and lead, so we intend to provide incentives for collective attainment of health goals – plus opportunities for union members to lead on health in their communities. This is a high-road, long-term strategy for the common good.”
The program includes employee education, healthy workplace environment, healthy and affordable food options, and opportunities for healthy activities on non-work time. It also provides for dedicated workplace leaders so that teams can take ownership of employee health and wellness and integrate healthy practices into work units. The intent is to measure real collective improvement in the health of the workforce.
“Kaiser Permanente national bargaining is unique. There is not only a group of labor negotiators at the table, but a broad cross-section of our employees providing recommendations on how to better deliver high-quality, affordable care, and ensure Kaiser Permanente is a great place to work well into the future,” explained Dennis Dabney, senior vice president, National Labor Relations, and management’s lead negotiator.
With the new tentative agreement, measurable performance improvement goals for Kaiser Permanente unit-based teams will continue to be raised steadily. The agreement provides for continued performance sharing bonus payments tied, on a regional basis, to the achievement of quality, service, financial, health, and preventive screening goals.
“Health care simply costs too much, and as union workers we are absolutely committed to addressing cost and access – as well as care and quality,” said John August, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. “The agreements we made today provide union members with the tools to improve care and efficiency – rather than chop care or benefits. Improvement, delivered by workers at the frontline, is the key to extending quality care to every person in our country.”
The tentative agreement is an outgrowth of the nation’s largest and longest-lasting labor management partnership, which has been in place since 1997. The signature achievement of the partnership has been the creation of over 3,400 high-performing unit-based teams that use rapid improvement cycles to constantly improve every aspect of care and service. The teams have raised patient satisfaction scores, shortened waiting times for everything from prescriptions to same-day surgeries, improved operational efficiency, improved quality metrics and increased employee satisfaction. (For examples of unit-based teams in action, see www.lmpartnership.org).
The agreement covers approximately 76,000 health care workers in California; 7,500 in Oregon and Washington state; 5,000 in Colorado; 1,200 in Ohio; 5,500 in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area; 1,800 in Georgia; and 1,000 registered nurses in Hawaii. The workers are represented by 28 different local unions, and include hundreds of job classifications including registered nurses, pharmacists, maintenance and service workers, technicians of many kinds, psychologists, lab scientists, and many others.
The tentative agreement must be ratified this summer by each of the 28 local unions in the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. If ratified, it will go into effect on October 1, 2012.
About Kaiser Permanente: Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We serve approximately 8.9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: www.kp.org/newscenter.