KAISER: Reaches Contract Agreement With Nurses
The California Nurses Association reached a "tentative contract agreement" with Kaiser Permanente early this morning, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kaiser spokesperson Tom Debley called the accord "a win-win for the nurses and Kaiser Permanente." The CNA, which has in the past accused Kaiser of compromising patient care through cost cutting, "will recommend that its 7,500 registered nurses from Fresno to the Oregon border approve the pact." The Kaiser nurses will vote on the accord across the next three weeks (3/25). The San Francisco Chronicle reports the new contract may "have a national impact because of Kaiser's size: It employs one of every 10 nurses in California and provides health care for 8.9 million consumers around the country." Kaiser nurses have staged six walkouts since January 1997, when their contract expired, citing insufficient pay and staffing levels.
No Terms Of Endearment
According to the Chronicle, sources close to the negotiations commented that although the plan did not give Kaiser the two-tiered wage system it desired, it did include "a lower pay scale for newly hired nurses in Sacramento and Santa Rosa, where nursing salaries are generally lower." Further, Kaiser officials said that the negotiators had agreed upon "some innovative approaches to improving care -- such as the creation of 18 part-time 'quality liaison' positions that would be staffed by registered nurses" (Debare, 3/25). The San Jose Mercury News reports that these new nursing positions are designed to give "the nurses a new voice in staffing and budget issues." In terms of salary concessions, the new contract also provides a three-year contract "with annual 3 percent salary increases." C. Richard Barnes, deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, who oversaw the talks, said, "These negotiations have led to some major innovations in patient care. This is leading-edge for the health care industry" (Bailey/Fischer, 3/25).