Kaiser Permanente and SEIU reach tentative agreement on labor dispute

Kaiser Permanente Colorado and members of the Service Employees International Union Local 105 have reached an agreement on a contract that would avert a strike, the organizations announced Friday. Under the terms of the new agreement, the hospital system will not pursue “benefits changes” such as eliminating Sunday shifts or cutting nursing shifts by nine hours, according to a statement from SEIU. Additionally, patients who are receiving dialysis will no longer have their appointments pushed back to 9 p.m. and doctors’ appointments will remain scheduled on Wednesdays and Thursdays, rather than on Fridays and Saturdays.

The SEIU and Kaiser negotiated the agreement last week after it became clear the two sides were at a stalemate. “Contrary to what the employer claimed, SEIU Local 105 listened to the concerns of its members and crafted a contract that meets the needs of our members while balancing the needs of Kaiser Permanente patients,” Kelley Gray, the president of the union, said in a statement. She added that Kaiser and the union were “working to approve language over the weekend.”

SEIU Local 105 represents around 6,000 health care professionals at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, including nurses, physicians, therapists, technicians and dietary staff. The union, which has been negotiating with Kaiser for more than a year, had expressed deep concerns over proposed benefit changes. In September, SEIU organizers wrote a letter to the president of Kaiser Permanente threatening to hold a strike if a deal couldn’t be reached. In the letter, the union said it had presented “serious concerns” over “seven value-minimizing proposals” including unilateral reductions in health care benefits, a reduction in other health benefits like vision care and a schedule for nursing changes. The health care system responded by saying that the issues “had been adequately addressed in negotiations.”

Kaiser Permanente, which has more than 10,000 hospitals nationwide, announced in June that it was joining with the Accretive Health company to create a multibillion-dollar business that would compete with the health care giants UnitedHealthcare and Humana. Several unions have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to stop the merger and that some customers would lose contracts.

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