The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United reported yesterday that it has agreed to a tentative contract for its 18,000 California RNs who work at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics.
RoseAnn DeMoro, the union's executive director, said the new contract would give the RNs "a stronger voice on patient care, and breakthrough improvements in workplace protections."
The agreement also provides significant economic gains and additional retirement security, she added.
While the pact must still be ratified by the RNs, who will hold membership meetings beginning Wednesday, CNA said it is cancelling a strike that had been scheduled for Jan. 21 and 22.
The agreement affects registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work in 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in Northern and Central California, from Santa Rosa to Fresno.
DeMoro paid tribute to the "unity of the Kaiser RNs and their devotion to assuring the highest level of quality care for patients as well as protections for the nurses who deliver that care."
"We look forward to a new chapter in our interactions with Kaiser," she said.
She added: "We especially appreciate the commitment of Kaiser's leadership to addressing our concerns, including working through the complicated problems associated with the changes in health care delivery, some of them related to the Affordable Care Act, and the attention it has paid in this contract to the health and safety of its registered nurses as well as patients."
According to DeMoro, a key to the settlement was the agreement by Kaiser to establish a new committee of direct care RNs and NPs who will work with management to address the concerns RNs have about care standards in Kaiser facilities.
"This is a great day for Kaiser patients and nurses," said Zenei Cortez, a nurse and chairwoman of the Kaiser RN bargaining team and a co-president of California Nurses Association.
"We have an agreement that will strengthen the ability of Kaiser RNs to provide the optimal level of care our patients deserve, while establishing additional security for nurses. I am so proud of the Kaiser RNs and NPs who worked so hard for so long for this day."
"This agreement is a great achievement," added Diane McClure, a Sacramento Kaiser RN and nurse negotiator. "We are especially excited about the expanded opportunity for new RN grads and trainees in Kaiser and the protections this agreement offers for RNs and our families."
The union leaders said that major components of the agreement include:
· Kaiser will hire hundreds of RNs which the nurses say should substantially improve the quality of care for hospitalized patients, as well as signaling a renewed commitment to RN training and employment opportunities for new RN graduates at a time many hospitals have frozen RN hires.
· Groundbreaking workplace protections for nurses from workplace violence to infectious diseases like Ebola to needle stick injuries.
· Substantial economic gains for RNs and NPs, many of them the sole source of income for their families or extended families. Over the three years of the agreement, all the nurses will receive 14 percent pay increases through across the board hikes and lump sum payments.
· Additional long-term retirement security for Kaiser RNs and NPs through maintenance of a secure pension plan plus a substantial increase in employer contributions to the nurses' 401k pension plans for the 87 percent of Kaiser RNs with those plans.
· Annual paid release time, the first in the nation, for 25 RNs every year to participate in NNU's disaster relief program, the Registered Nurse Response Network, which has dispatched hundreds of RNs to provide basic medical services following U.S. and global disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
The California Nurses Association also committed to helping the National Union of Healthcare Workers at Kaiser, including mental health clinicians, to achieve a contract agreement as well.