Unprecedented Number of Grievances Filed
Once a model of labor-management cooperation, Kaiser Permanente has made troubling changes in the way it treats its health professionals, bringing in managers lacking experience in a union environment, disregarding the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, and focusing more on profits than the well-being of its employees and patients.
As a result, an unprecedented number of grievances have been filed in the Mid-Atlantic region over the past year.
“Kaiser was once a model employer and we hope it will be again, but right now it’ s anything but,” said Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Lavoris”Mikki” Harris. “That’s doubly disappointing, because Kaiser is not only an employer of our members; it’s also the health care provider for thousands of other Local 400 members.
“Though we have an excellent collective bargaining agreement in place, Kaiser managers often fail to follow its terms,” Harris charged. “Our members at Kaiser are dismayed by this turn of events and we will not let it stand. We are challenging every violation and holding management accountable for its actions.”
Major issues that have arisen include:
Employees who want full- time hours aren’t receiving them even though Kaiser could be providing them. Instead, the company is filling full-time vacancies with two 20-hour positions, leaving more workers stuck in part-time status, not receiving pension benefits, and forced to get second jobs outside
Kaiser to make ends meet.
Off-the-clock work.
Kaiser has made clear it will not pay overtime, but then it assigns its health professionals responsibilities that require more than 40 hours of work to fulfill. This leaves workers feeling as if they have no choice but to work off-the-clock. And for many, the consequences are greater than in other jobs, because nurses and other medical providers could lose their licenses as a result.
Inadequate staffing that threatens the quality of care.
Unlike the company’s home state of California, there are no Kaiser Permanente hospitals in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. So Kaiser Mid-Atlantic tries to avoid sending its patients to hospitals because that sends money out the door. That’s why Kaiser has established a series of urgent care centers that operate like hospitals, but don’t have the same level or breadth of staffing and are not subject to the regulations that apply to hospitals. In essence, the company is trying have the best of both worlds, keep money in-house without going to the expense of actually building a hospital. But patients suffer as a result.
Failure to follow basic contract provisions.
Kaiser managers are even committing “first contract errors,” as Harris put it, involving seniority, vacation and other fundamental terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
While the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, the insurance provider, is technically a non-profit entity, its Mid-.Atlantic Permanente Medical Group is a for-profit corporation, as are Kaiser’s other regional medical groups. These are physician-owned companies, which are contracted with to provide medical care to patients covered by Kaiser Foundation Health Plans.
“Kaiser’s recent behavior leads me to wonder whether the for-profit cart is dragging the non-profit horse,” Harris said. “As a result, Kaiser’s vaunted Labor-Management Partnership is not what it once was, with Kaiser’s health professionals being treated not as its most valuable resource, but rather as a cost to be minimized. Together, we will reverse this unfortunate turn of events.”