OAKLAND, Calif. -(BW HealthWire)- In the notoriously turbulent health care industry, where warp-speed structural and technological change have created mounting job insecurity for workers at every level, Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of unions representing 60,000 employees have reached a first-of-its-kind Employment and Income Security Agreement. According to a press release the pact commits management and unions to a new process of continually adapting the organization to meet the challenges of constant change -- while providing an unprecedented level of employment and income security to unionized employees.
The agreement means that rather than be laid off, workers whose jobs are affected by change will be re-deployed, in most cases into a comparable job in a comparable location, with comparable pay rates, benefits, working hours, and shift assignments.
"Health care workers want to help shape and create change in the workplace, rather than having it imposed on them.... " said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
The pact requires the parties to exhaust every possible avenue for securing a comparable job for affected employees. It provides a framework for aggressive workforce planning to assure re deployment of workers into other comparable positions, using mechanisms like reexamining hiring policies, filling vacancies created by attrition, retraining, and reviewing the feasibility of bringing outsourced work back in-house.
The agreement also creates a re deployment period for employees who cannot be placed in the same classification, providing comparable pay, benefits and other conditions for at least one year, while providing re deployment or retraining opportunities where appropriate.
Two years ago, the company and the unions formed the biggest-ever union management partnership in health care, with the goal of demonstrating that union-management cooperation produces superior health care quality, market leading competitive performance, and a superior workplace for employees.
"At too many health care companies, management is trying to do the impossible: improve performance while squeezing health care workers tighter and tighter. With all of the pressures being generated in this fast-changing industry, Kaiser could have taken a low road as many other employers have taken," said Sweeney. "Instead, Kaiser chose to re-affirm its commitment to the women and men who've helped it become the premiere health plan for working families in America."
The document states, in part, that "Employment security is a goal of the Partnership and one of the cornerstones of workforce engagement....Workforce engagement is critical to the success of changing the way we do work, resulting in better quality, greater efficiencies and increased growth."
Kaiser Permanente is America's leading integrated health care organization. Founded in 1945, it is a not-for-profit, group-practice prepayment program with headquarters in Oakland, California. The coalition of unions includes dozens of locals of AFSCME, AFT, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), Kaiser Permanente Nurse Anesthetists Association, Office and Professional Employees Union, SEIU, UFCW, and the Steelworkers.