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Thousands of San Diego Kaiser healthcare workers could strike

Posted at 4:19 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 19:34:20-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Thousands of San Diego Kaiser Permanente health care workers could walk off the job on Nov. 15 if a collective bargaining agreement is not reached.

Kaiser Zion Medical Center E.R. Nurse Rob Jones says the battle against the Coronavirus is not over; but he and more than 3,000 other San Diego Kaiser healthcare workers have a new fight on their hands: this one with Kaiser itself.

"They say that they are the most friendly union company out there. And I would agree, they used to be," Jones said Friday.

Jones is president of the local UNAC/UHCP, the union that represents thousands of Kaiser health care workers.

The organization just served the health care giant a 10 day notice that if an agreement isn't reached by 7 a.m. Nov. 15, they'll walk off the job.

"We've got to take action for our patients and for ourselves," said Jones.

According to Jones, the union wants four percent annual raises, which Kaiser says it offered.

However, the E.R. nurse says a chunk of those payments come as one-time bonuses, which do not impact retirement benefits or future salary hikes. He also says Kaiser also wants to cut future new-hire salaries, a move he called union busting.

In a statement, Kaiser said its proposal is due to what's happening in the health care industry.

"The challenge we are trying to address in partnership with our unions is the increasingly unaffordable cost of health care. And the fact is, wages and benefits account for half of Kaiser Permanente's operational costs," the statement said.

Kaiser's statement says union wages are 26 percent above the average market wage. But Jones says that figure doesn't include comparable hospital systems such as Scripps or Sharp. A spokeswoman for Kaiser says it does.

Jones pointed out Kaiser's reported $2 billion dollar profit in this year's first quarter.

Kaiser Permanente says if a strike happens, its facilities will be operated by trained and experienced managers and staff. It says its doctors will continue to be available to care for patients.