KAISER PERMANENTE: NEGOTIATING FOR LOWER NURSES’ WAGES
The nation's largest HMO, Kaiser Permanente, "wants itsThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
unionized nurses in Northern California to accept lower wages and
fewer benefits" in labor contract negotiations that began
Wednesday, according to the SACRAMENTO BEE. The California
Nurses Association (CNA), which represents about 2,000 Kaiser
nurses in the negotiations, "said the fight is really over how
patients are cared for as the giant health care provider reduces
costs and contemplates hospital closings." Kaiser spokesperson
Kathleen McKenna said, "Our benefit costs are 30 percent higher
than our competitors across the board for senior managers and
nurses. We need to look for ways we can get our wages and
benefits in line with market rates." However, labor
representative Morton Newman said, "Kaiser is interested in
lowering costs and we want safe, effective, therapeutic health
care. We're talking past each other at the (bargaining) table."
The next round of negotiations is scheduled for October 16.
ON THE TABLE: BEE notes that "so far, Kaiser isn't saying
what it will propose in terms of reduced wages. But the company
has put forth a new 'flex benefits' package that would be tied to
most employees' salaries and hours worked." Under that proposal,
which resembles a similar plan agreed to by Kaiser managers and
salaried workers, employees could earn credits which could be
used to "buy" health, dental and life insurance. The nurses'
union has yet to demand any wage increases and is instead
"pushing for better working conditions," according to the BEE.
The nurses are asking Kaiser to stop decreasing the number of
nurses assigned to care for patients, Newman said. Last year,
nurses were responsible for between four and five patients per
day, but this year the patient load jumped to between six and 12
patients per day. CNA spokesperson Chuck Idelson said, "Kaiser
is one of the most wealthy health care institutions in the U.S.
It does not need to be demanding additional sacrifices from their
nurses" (Ferraro, 9/19).