Kaiser announces ‘last, best and final’ contract offer for 4,000 California workers – Daily News

on Sep10
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Kaiser Permanente has provided some 4,000 mental health care workers and other California employees with its final, three-year labor proposal, but union representatives aren’t happy.

In an email posted this weekend, the healthcare giant said its “best, last and final” offer for Southern California employees was presented Thursday to representatives with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). It complements an Aug. 16 final proposal made to Northern California employees represented by the same union.

Kaiser has been in negotiations with union representatives for more than a year.

Statewide, the union membership totals around 4,000, including mental healthcare workers, dietitians, audiologists and nurse educators. Their contract expired Sept. 25, 2018.

What the proposal includes

The proposal includes a 3% salary increase for the first year of the agreement. That drops to 2% the following two years with a 1.5% cash payment each year. It also addresses the concern of therapists that they have adequate time to engage in in-person and other patient-care activities while ensuring optimal patient access.

Kaiser said the offer also “preserves industry-leading benefits and invites therapists to join with us in redesigning our model of care.”

“We urge the union to accept this offer so that we can move forward addressing many of the immediate concerns and daily challenges that have been of greatest concern to our employees,” the statement said. “The challenges we face are also national ones and require a multitude of solutions, of which we believe the most important is to examine and explore ways to redesign the model of care.”

NUHW President Sal Rosselli said Kaiser’s latest proposal is the same offer that was rejected two months ago by 90% of the union’s members — with one caveat.

“They are saying if our members don’t accept this offer by Sept. 25 they will withdraw the retroactive pay increase,” he said.

That means the 3% salary hike would become effective upon ratification of the agreement but wouldn’t apply to the prior 12 months leading back to expiration of the previous contract.

“After that last rejection, Kaiser executives called us and asked for a meeting to find out why we rejected their offer by such a large margin,” Rosselli said. “So we did that and had a very long meeting, telling them specifically what needed to change.”

Those needed changes, according to Rosselli, included:

  • Hiring more mental health clinicians so patients wouldn’t have to endure long waits for appointments
  • Establishing crisis teams in each geographic area to deal with mental health emergencies
  • Providing workers with enough time to do ancillary work, including needed follow-up services with patients

Moving forward on commitments

Kaiser said it has hired another 322 mental health employees across the state since the beginning of 2019, allocating more than $10 million to expand its post-graduate training programs and investing more than $40 million to advance the education and experience of therapists and others seeking to work in the mental health industry.

The company said it’s also working to add 60 new offices for mental health providers as part of a $700 million investment over the next several years.

Rosselli said the extra mental health employees Kaiser is hiring will help, but patients are still experiencing overly long wait times for appointments.

“It’s been a huge problem,” he said. “The state has a regulation that someone has to initially be seen within 10 days. Kaiser was fined $4 million by the state Department of Managed Health Care in 2013 because it wasn’t scheduling those appointments fast enough.

“They finally hired some more folks and they’re doing a better job of that,” Rosselli said. “But patients are still waiting six weeks, or sometimes even up to four months, to get their follow-up appointment with initial therapy.”

Rosselli said crisis teams are sorely needed to deal with mental health emergencies. Currently, employees are pulled away from their regular duties to help when those kinds of situations arise, he said.

“If there’s an emergency they’ll have a therapist cancel their appointment with a patient who may have waited for months to be seen,” Rosselli said. “We’re going to be introducing legislation in Sacramento that would make it a law that follow-up therapy appointments be within 10 days unless they are not necessary.”

Rosselli said the union will survey its members in the coming days regarding Kaiser’s offer, and 120 union stewards plan to meet this weekend to discuss the offer as well.

“After that we’ll see what our next steps are,” he said.



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