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Progress on racial justice, safety and dispute resolution; KP digs in on destructive staffing


DAILY BARGAINING UPDATE | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2021


With contract negotiations entering their final scheduled days next week, our bargaining team made progress on racial justice, patient and worker safety, and improving dispute resolution. But KP clung to destructive, unsustainable positions on economics and staffing. The final national bargaining sessions are next Wednesday, September 8, through Friday, September 10.

“It’s hard to understand what their strategy is, if any – but KP negotiators have painted themselves into a corner, leaving many, many issues unresolved while doubling down on proposals that will exacerbate the crisis in staffing, worker shortages, patient care, and morale. We have made it clear we will never agree to proposals that threaten workers and patients,” said Nate Bernstein, Healthcare Director of UFCW Local 7.


There were some bright spots of agreement. Labor and Management members of the Racial Justice subcommittee jointly recommended that Juneteenth be established as a paid holiday. They also recommended implementing processes and programs such as Belong@KP to address racial trauma/fatigue, funding citizenship assistance, and others. The labor side of the subcommittee recommended establishing a nonprofit organization dedicated to training underrepresented health care workers and the appropriate observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday.


The subcommittee on patient and worker safety reached consensus on adding language to the National Agreement on Just Culture, a recognition program for reporting of near misses, identifying and developing a communication process for emergency preparedness, and updating prevention of workplace violence. The group also recommended creation of a National Health, Safety and Well-Being Committee to ensure that Just Culture and Psychological Safety are integrated into current work streams.


There was also consensus on recommendations that could improve the speed and effectiveness of dispute resolution. The Problem and Dispute Resolution subcommittee recommended developing guidance or techniques for getting “unstuck” if groups find themselves at an impasse in the Issue Resolution process. They’ve recommended the guide be short, simple, and easily accessible for immediate reference.


KP CLINGS TO LOWER STAFFING AND PATIENT CARE STANDARDS


Stonewalling on staffing and patient care: Workers in every region, union, and department are in urgent need of adequate staff to provide KP members with the service and quality of care they deserve. In the face of this crisis, management members of the subcommittee stalled and derailed discussions. As a result, the group had very few joint recommendations.


While management was trying to run out the clock, labor subcommittee members crafted thoughtful recommendations to provide Alliance union members with information, structures, and processes to enable us to work with management on staffing solutions. Labor recommendations include new structures such as a Labor-Management Staffing Committees in every region, a national escalation process to resolve disputes, limits on the use of travelers, and timelines to hold management accountable for providing information.


KP economic proposals would make staffing and patient care even worse: KP negotiators clung to a discredited proposal to create a two-tier wage scale creating two classes of workers, current workers on a higher pay scale and new hires on a lower scale for their entire career. KP’s two-tier wage scale would undermine patient care, increase staffing shortages, and further harm exhausted workers. Given the current delta surges, many health care systems are acting fast and doing everything they can to recruit and retain staff, including offering sign-on bonuses, special incentives, and generous wage increases. KP chose this time of crisis to propose the worst contract terms in the history of partnership.


Local bargaining gridlock looms: KP local negotiators appear to have gotten a message to refuse to agree on almost everything, which is only creating a pile-up at the national table. “We will resolve first contracts that have lingered for years, we will address hundreds of unresolved local issues, we will find a solution to wage injustice in the Inland Empire and Kern, and we will raise standards in KP Washington where they are far below the rest of the enterprise,” said Alliance Executive Director Hal Ruddick.


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