The following bargaining update is from the Alliance of Health Care Unions negotiating a new nationwide contract with Kaiser Permanente:
Orange County, June 26 – In the first of two jam-packed days of bargaining, union negotiators initially made some progress addressing labor and management interests. But by the second day, negotiators had to contend with management proposals that were made and then withdrawn, and a management proposal to eliminate 15-year old “provisions in the National or Local Agreements that prohibit the employer from cancelling or reassigning staff.” Kaiser proposed to be able to cancel shifts without pay up to two hours before shift start time, proposing to pay for half of the shift if the cancellation is less than two hours before start time.
The economic subgroup had a two-hour meeting and made limited progress on economic issues. The union team emphasized that we intend to preserve and improve our benefits, and win strong wage increases for all Alliance union members. Management proposed increased health care co-pays.
In a union caucus at the end of the second day, leaders encouraged union members to attend bargaining on Sunday, July 8. “This is the eleventh hour,” said Alliance Chair Kathleen Theobald. “This is when we need union members to show up and let Kaiser know we care.”
In the Operational Effectiveness subgroup, negotiators discussed forecasting the work of the future and staff. Management again called for flexibility, and the unions stressed that the key to flexibility is engaging labor early in the change process, before decisions are made.
“All the things that we’re trying to tackle really stem from the need to have meaningful participation from labor,” explained subgroup Union Co-Lead Lisa Loucks of UFCW Local 555.
The group discussed the need to fully include labor in forecasting and planning for the work of the future, and addressing barriers, especially barriers to placing employees who have achieved higher qualifications within Kaiser.
It was in this subgroup that management called to end the no-cancellation policy.
“There’s frustration on both sides,” added Kim Smith of UNAC/UHCP. “We need to implement the National Agreement so that management gets what it needs and we get what we need out of it.”
The Partnership subgroup focused on improving access to LMP training. In some areas and classifications, basic LMP learning has virtually ground to a halt, including even required LMP Orientation for new hires.
“We need to ensure that from the first time they walk through the door, new frontline workers and managers are trained in how to work in partnership and what the expectations are,” said Valery Robinson, USW 7600 President. “We don’t want to go backwards.”
To speed the development of updated national curriculum, agreement was reached to empower a national LMP Learning Group that will report quarterly to the LMP Executive Committee.
The group discussed tightening up and improving training standards for new hires.
The union negotiating team also continued to advance proposals to require minimum hours of LMP training every year for every employee, and to expand the current 4-hour LMP Orientation to a full 8-hour LMP Orientation class.
“Our goal is to make sure new employees, managers, and newly accreted union members receive partnership training in a timely manner,” said Katie Ekstrom, OFNHP Local 5017 and subgroup Union Co-Lead. “We are shifting our partnership culture through a renewed commitment to learning about partnership early.”