Kaiser Permanente Nurses in Northern California Ratify Contract
Some 10,000 registered nurses at 17 Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California, represented by the California Nurses Association, have ratified a new contract that increases wages and ends mandatory overtime, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 10/23). The contract agreement, reached after three months of negotiations, will provide an across-the-board salary increase of 26.5% over four years and will end the practice of mandatory overtime at the facilities by Jan. 1, 2003. The contract also includes a provision to establish a "pool of nurses available to work in disciplines in which they have special training" at the facilities. In addition, the new deal provides "defined benefit" plans for retirees to replace their 401(k) plans, which will effectively triple nurses' retirement benefits. The contract allows nurses who retire at age 55 with 15 years of experience to purchase family and dependent health coverage at a reduced rate through Kaiser's HMO plan (California Healthline, 9/9). The four-year contract, which is retroactive to Sept. 1, will expire Aug. 31, 2006 (Sacramento Bee, 10/23).
In related news, 1,300 registered nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center are scheduled to strike today, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 10/23). The nurses, represented by CNA, have sought an improved pension plan, increased staffing levels and raises for more experienced nurses, according to Diane Hirsch-Garcia, contract negotiator for the union. CNA has asked Long Beach Memorial to enroll the 1,300 registered nurses in a pension plan that would "require it to pay fixed amounts, rather than the varying amounts now paid out" based on employee efficiency. Hospital officials agreed to study a defined benefit pension plan. CNA officials said that the union would cancel the strike "if the hospital would commit to the plan in concept and hammer out the details over the next few weeks," but Long Beach Memorial officials refused (California Healthline, 10/21). Hospital officials have "vowed to block" the nurses from returning to work until Monday and will spend $1 million to $2 million to hire temporary nurses to cover during the strike. Dr. Gainer Pillsbury, LBMMC medical director, said, "There's no question that this strike will hurt us. But at the same time, we cannot afford to mortgage the future by signing a blank check and agree to a [pension] plan that we can't even evaluate ahead of time" (Los Angeles Times, 10/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.