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Friday, October 4, 2019

LOS ANGELES (CNS)—After five months of intensive negotiations, Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of 11 unions have reached a 4-year labor agreement that covers 85,000 employees around the nation—most of them in California—and staves off the prospect of a strike, Kaiser said Wednesday.

The draft agreement provides for annual pay increases and maintains what Kaiser calls "excellent" benefits while also creating a program to reduce the national shortage of health care workers, according to a Kaiser statement.

"If ratified, the agreement will position Kaiser Permanente—including its members, employees and local communities—for a sustainable future as the organization works to make its high-quality, integrated model of care even more affordable and accessible in all its regions," the statement said.

Arlene Peasnall, interim chief human resources officer for Kaiser Permanente Health Plan and Hospitals, said management members "greatly respect and value our employees who deliver on our mission every day. This agreement is a testament to the dedication, compassion and skill those employees bring to work every day and demonstrates that Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition have a shared commitment to affordability for our members."

The agreement, according to the statement, includes:

• Guaranteed wage increases each year through 2023 in Northern and Southern California,

• Opportunities for career growth: Kaiser Permanente employees will have the opportunity to move into new roles in a training capacity after pursuing the education needed for the job, at an adjusted Step 1 pay scale; they are guaranteed they will not make less than in their former position.

• Workforce Development Fund: A new multimillion-dollar fund will be created to provide educational opportunities for Californians who may not otherwise be able to pursue a career in health care;

• Retirement security: The Agreement preserves the existing defined benefit pension plan along with other "strong" retirement benefits.

• Outsourcing: The parties have agreed to a list of jobs that will not be outsourced or subcontracted for the life of the contract.

Coalition employees represent hundreds of job classifications, from optometrists and pharmacists to maintenance and service workers. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions comprises 11 local unions from three international unions.