Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions reached a tentative agreement with the help of federal mediators last month on a national 3-year collective bargaining agreement that covers nearly 48,000 unionized Kaiser Permanente health care workers represented by 22 union locals, Kaiser announced Wednesday.

The contract will cover nearly 48,000 health care workers: 32,100 in California; 6,300 in Oregon and Washington; 2,100 in Colorado; 2,200 in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia; 2,800 in Georgia; and 1,900 in Hawaii, Kaiser said in a statement. The workers span job classifications from registered nurses and pharmacists to maintenance and service workers.

The negotiations, which began in May, were among the largest private-sector contract talks in the United States this year, according to the statement. The deputy director and commissioners of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service attended the sessions.

The tentative agreement was reached on Sept. 23, Kaiser said.

The deal goes far beyond the traditional contract issues of wages and benefits, according to Kaiser. It includes provisions to strengthen the groundbreaking labor-management partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance at the senior leadership level as well as the front-line level. This includes 3,600 unit-based teams — jointly led by pairs of managers and union-represented employees — that are delivering “significant improvements in the areas of quality, affordability, service and work environment” on behalf of Kaiser Permanente members and patients, according to the statement.

The tentative agreement also offers enhanced career development programs.

“This agreement advances our ability to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve,” said Chuck Columbus, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president and chief Human Resources officer. “We’re proud of the skilled, dedicated and compassionate people of Kaiser Permanente who are devoted to our mission, our members and patients, communities and each other.”

Alliance Executive Board Chair Kathleen Theobald, executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Nurse Anesthetists Association, responded that “Our unions are committed to raising the standards of health care delivery, and the living standards of workers everywhere.

“We have shown that we can deliver top quality care hand in hand with industry-leading wages and benefits. This tentative agreement strengthens our partnership and our ability to keep delivering improvement for patients and workers.”

The agreement also reaffirms both parties’ commitment to working together under a new Labor Management Partnership agreement. The original agreement, reached in 1997, provided a joint strategy for organizational innovation and change, created an environment of continuous learning and improvement, and actively involved the workforce in decision-making. The new agreement builds on that, strengthening the commitment that Kaiser Permanente and the partner unions will promote each other’s mutual success.

The new pact includes: across-the-board wage increases, which vary by region and by year; enhanced processes to re-energize the Labor Management Partnership and ensure the engagement of senior leaders; a new labor-management trust to fund the partnership with the Alliance; A new educational trust to fund job training, pursuit of academic degrees, professional certification, and career counseling services for employees represented by an Alliance union; continued support for 3,600 front-line teams.

Worker engagement and participation in these teams have helped Kaiser Permanente garner recognition for clinical quality, patient safety and member satisfaction from organizations such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the statement said.

The tentative agreement was unanimously approved by an Alliance bargaining delegate conference Sept. 29 and will now go to union members for ratification. The voting is expected to be complete by the end of October. A senior Kaiser Permanente leadership group must also give its formal approval. If ratified, the agreement will have an effective date of Oct. 1, 2018.

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