California Kaiser Permanente Nurses Reach Contract Agreement, Union Says

Kaiser Permanente nurses in California approved a new contract that boosts pay and improves patient care along with health and safety protections for nurses, a union official said Monday.

Registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work at 21 hospitals and 65 clinics across Northern and Central California voted last week to approve the new three-year deal, the California Nurses Association said.

The deal includes a 14 percent pay raise over three years, the union said.

About 18,000 Kaiser nurses in the state went on a two-day strike in November, and another walkout had been planned for last week but an agreement was reached.

The association represents the Kaiser nurses. Those workers are part of the National Nurses United organization.

Under the new contract, about 540 registered nurse positions will be added, which nurses said should substantially improve the quality of care for hospitalized patients.

It also signals a renewed commitment to training and employment opportunities for new graduates at a time when many hospitals have frozen hiring, the union said.

Under the contract, a new committee of nurses will work with management to address concerns nurses have about care standards at Kaiser facilities.

The contract includes paid time for 25 registered nurses annually to participate in the union's disaster-relief program, which has dispatched hundreds of nurses to help with medical services following disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The union appreciates the commitment Kaiser's leadership made to address concerns, Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California Senior Vice President of Human Resources Gay Westfall said the agreement accomplishes the key objectives the company laid out at the beginning of bargaining that include providing better benefits to nurses and increasing workplace flexibility.

"The agreement demonstrates that Kaiser Permanente and our nurses have a shared commitment to quality, service, and affordability for our members,'' Westfall said. "Although we have had disagreements at times with CNA, as this agreement reflects, we have been able to work through those disagreements.''

The union said it is now committed to helping mental health workers finalize a contract. About 2,600 psychologists, counselors and therapists held a two-day strike earlier this month to bring attention to what they say are inadequate staffing and long wait times for appointments.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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