Nearly 100,000 unionized workers are celebrating a tentative national agreement reached with Kaiser Permanente hat provides raises and maintains workers’ full benefits, but also contains unique new provisions to promote better health among Kaiser employees as a way of lowering costs and modeling healthy lifestyles to the public.
“This contract takes labor relations to a new level by going beyond the normal bread and butter issues typically covered in a labor agreement,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW. “The agreement maintains benefits and provides good raises, and we are proud of that, but we are also proud about provisions that will make employees healthier. The agreement also defines new roles for union members as ‘healthcare leaders’ to help their co-workers achieve that goal.”
The three-year agreement, reached between Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions , provides for annual pay raises of 3 percent, maintains fully paid family health coverage, defined-benefit pensions, and retiree healthcare for the life of the agreement, and improves dental care.
It covers nearly 100,000 workers in multiple unions, including 45,000 in SEIU-UHW, by far the largest union in coalition. It must be ratified by union members in the coalidtion.
“This is exactly what we had in mind when our union started Let’s Get Healthy California, said Judie Adams, a Kaiser medical assistant in Napa. “We said to Kaiser, ‘Instead of cutting our benefits, there’s a better way. Let’s focus on health, let’s reduce healthcare costs by working together to improve the collective health of Kaiser employees.’ And they agreed.”
The agreement includes a new groundbreaking “Total Health” provision that recognizes a shared Kaiser and union goal of “creating the healthiest workforce in the healthcare industry by improving the quality and length of employee’s lives and enhancing the effectiveness and productivity of the organization.”
It includes a Total Health Leadership Committee to create and promote a healthy work environment by addressing topics such as healthy workspaces, healthy food options, and healthy activities in the worksite. It also calls for an education campaign to promote wellness among employees.
Rather than punish employees who do not achieve health goals, the agreement offers financial incentives if employees at a facility collectively make improvements in their health. The agreement calls for benchmarks on body mass index (BMI), smoking cessation, cholesterol, blood pressure, and workplace injury rates, with a goal of reducing those indicators by 5 percent over the life of the agreement.
“Kaiser Permanente national bargaining is unique. There is not only a group of labor negotiators at the table, but a broad cross-section of our employees providing recommendations on how to better deliver high-quality, affordable care, and ensure Kaiser Permanente is a great place to work well into the future,” explained Dennis Dabney, senior vice president, National Labor Relations, and management’s lead negotiator.