Kaiser Permanente said Wednesday it reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with unions for 85,000 of the healthcare giant’s workers, averting a potential strike planned for next month.
The proposed pact includes annual pay increases for the employees, preserves their defined-benefit pension plan and establishes a program to reduce a shortage of healthcare workers, Kaiser said.
Oakland-based Kaiser did not specify the size of the pay hikes, but they are “strong across-the-board raises of 3% a year,” according to a statement by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West local, which represents workers in Southern California and is among the 11 union locals involved.
Employees will start voting Tuesday on whether to ratify the proposed contract, which would replace a contract that expired last Sept. 30. The tentative pact followed five months of bargaining.
About 55,000 of the employees covered by the contract are in California. They include licensed vocational nurses; technicians who work in radiology, X-rays, pharmaceuticals and other fields; and employees involved with food services and environmental services such as laundry service and room cleaning.
The other workers are in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii and Washington, D.C.
The unions had threatened to call a weeklong strike against Kaiser starting Oct. 14, but the SEIU said any strike had been averted.
“We may disagree at times, but we have always been able to work through our challenges to align on common goals,” Arlene Peasnall, interim chief human resources officer for Kaiser’s Health Plan and Hospitals unit, said in a statement.
Another group of Kaiser employees, its 4,000 mental health workers, are involved in a separate labor dispute with the company and still don’t have a contract. They are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
Kaiser is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans. It has 12.3 million members, including 4.6 million in Southern California, and nearly $80 billion in annual revenue.