Negotiations between healthcare company Kaiser Permanente and members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU) remain tense as nurses across the state continue the third and final week of planned protests at Kaiser-owned California facilities.
Members of both parties met on May 7 to discuss details of the Coalition’s Labor Management Partnership, which was established between Kaiser and CKPU in 1997.
Kaiser presented their new potential blueprints for this partnership, which would focus on individual bargaining with local union contracts expiring in 2018 or those who are entitled to wage reopeners, according to a company press release.
The company plans to maintain provisions of existing agreements while bargaining new contracts, according to the release.
“We asked union leadership to review our proposed improvements to the partnership agreement and provide feedback,” the company said in the press release. “The next step is to work in partnership with labor to have a final version of a new partnership agreement in the coming weeks.”
CKPU fired back against the new bargaining format, saying the proposal represents a “top-down, unilateral” move that limits the coalition’s ability to negotiate under unified terms.
“The unions of the Coalition are completely committed to Partnership and the great work we’ve done together, but any changes to the Partnership need to be discussed in national bargaining,” said Walter Allen, executive director of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 30 in a press release.
Healthcare workers at Kaiser Antelope Valley say, “Get your priorities straight, Kaiser! You made a 22% increase in profits from 2016-2017 — but you’re still trying to outsource jobs and lower wage scales.” #HealthcareJustice @BernardJTyson @RamonfBaez @DrRichardIsaacs pic.twitter.com/nAtauqza5D
— SEIU-UHW (@seiu_uhw) May 10, 2018
“I am confident our members will take unified action to say enough is enough,” said Ron Ruggiero, president of SEIU Local 105 in a release. “We deserve a great new contract and any partnership worth its name must be on equal terms. Our union, and our Coalition, are clear that this is what we are fighting for.”
Union disputes delay contract negotiations
The longstanding terms of the partnership, as well as the original dates for the National Bargaining, were thrown into disarray in March after more than half of the local nursing unions split from the CKPU one day before negotiations were scheduled to occur.
Twenty one local unions with about 45,000 members split from CKPU, forming a new union called the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU), according to a report from nwLaborPress. The remaining 13 unions in the CKPU still retain more than 80,000 members, most of which are based out of California.
During a union meeting in 2017, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), the largest union in CKPU, pushed for more influence over CKPU decisions making.
Additionally, SEIU-UHW made aggressive moves against Kaiser without overall CKPU approval, negotiating in private meetings and threatening to push contract issues to voters with a ballot initiative.
Members of the newly formed AHCU said they had good partnerships with Kaiser and wanted to continue those relationships while still maintaining a unified voice–outside of the influence of unions still a part of the CKPU.
The new union’s executive director Peter diCicco, founder and executive director of the original CKPU from 1997 to 2006, said joining AHCU feels like coming home.
“But we’ve got our work cut out for us,” diCicco said in a press release. “We’re working to establish a new structure that builds on what worked best with the prior coalition, while addressing internal coalition issues that became obvious in recent years and ultimately drove the creation of this new Alliance.”
The AHCU has not announced their plans for negotiating with Kaiser, but the potential is there for a compromise that satisfies both parties. The California Nurses Association, a union with National Nurses United that’s separate from the CKPU, successfully negotiated a tentative contract with Kaiser in April with provisions targeting staffing enhancements, wage increases and employee benefits.
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