KPSC-NUHW Psych-Social and Healthcare Professionals Update

April 8, 2019

A special message to our Kaiser Permanente Southern California NUHW employees from Annie Russell, RN, chief operating officer, Southern California Permanente Medical Group; Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president, Human Resources Consulting, National Human Resources, Kaiser Permanente Health Plan and Hospitals; and Maryanne Malzone, interim senior vice president, Human Resources, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Health Plan and Hospitals:

Dear Colleagues:

As you are aware, Kaiser Permanente and NUHW have been bargaining since July 2018. Throughout the process, we’ve been committed to providing you with ongoing bargaining updates. As a valued employee, we think it’s important that you receive accurate information from both sides of the bargaining table so that you can make informed decisions. Recently, you received communications from the NUHW leadership that we must respond to directly because it contains misinformation and false claims.

Kaiser Permanente, its leaders, physicians, and employees support our unions and value the process of arriving at a contract that benefits the employees and organization, and ultimately sustains our mission of health for our members and communities. This process only works when it’s built on a foundation of transparency, trust, and truth. Please take a few moments to review the information that follows below. As always, we’re grateful for your dedication to the mission, our members and patients.

Thank you.

NUHW Claim: In the three months since we went on strike, KP has barely moved on core issues that must be resolved in our next contract.

KP Response: NUHW’s demands for pay related increases are unreasonably high, and that’s why we’re far apart on economic issues. The union cannot expect KP to use members’ premiums to “make-up” for wage increases not received during the five years the union took to reach and sign the 2015 agreement with KP. Our organization has a track record of paying above the median market rate for our Psych-Social and Healthcare Professionals employees and market data already shared with the union’s bargaining teams verify that fact. For example:

Unit & Position% Above SCAL Median Wages
Psych-Social Chapter  
Psychologists27%
Licensed Clinical Social Workers23%
Healthcare Professionals  
Audiologists11%
Speech Pathologists 7%
Dieticians 24%

At KP we are committed to paying market competitive salaries and benefits, including retirement, to our people to ensure we keep the great people we have and continue to attract and retain new talent.

NUHW Claim: KP has offered no realistic proposal to increase staffing, improve access to treatment appointments, or make our schedules more manageable.

KP Response: We’ve been addressing options to meet the ever-increasing demand for mental health services, including improving access and the use of highly-qualified outside contractors (this latter option was agreed to by NUHW when it signed the 2015 contract). These outside mental health professionals have contributed to easing the appointment demand as we also continue to address access needs by building additional facilities and offices for our therapists. We’ve also proposed the creation of a new “Psychotherapy Model of Care and Innovation Collaborative” – a 12-member group that would include an equal number of NUHW and KP representatives who would meet on a quarterly basis to develop strategies to address issues such as access to care and how our current model needs to evolve for KP to be the model for Behavioral Health.

NUHW Claim: KP is offering lower raises than what they provided to other unionized workers.

KP Response: Our wage proposals are based on market data that shows KP already pays wages that are above the market. NUHW’s demands for wage increases are unreasonably high, and that’s why we’re far apart on economic issues. Additionally, the union’s current wage demands place an unfair and unsustainable burden on our membership and establish false expectations among the KP Southern California employees it represents. Each contract we establish with one of our unions is a separate agreement determined through bargaining and based on the circumstances of that bargaining unit.

NUHW Claim: KP has refused to restore defined-benefit pensions for recent hires in Southern California.

KP Response: This is true. As we’ve said, Kaiser Permanente will not restore this program. It’s an unsustainable plan over the long term. The union, of its own accord, agreed to eliminate this program for new hires when it signed the 2015 agreement. And if we’re going to make our members’ health care more affordable, we cannot resume highly expensive programs of the past.

NUHW Claim: KP is refusing to seriously tackle major problems or treat NUHW members with the same dignity as its other employees.

KP Response: We always have and always will respect our unions and their members. It is employees — represented or not— working in concert with our physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals who make it possible for us to meet the health needs of our 4.6 million Southern California Health Plan members. Throughout our nearly 75-year history, we have a strong record of positive performance and success when it comes to bargaining fairly with the unions that represent our employees. We value our employees as well as their rights to be represented by their unions.

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