Kaiser nurses to get ‘biggest annual raises in 20 years’

The union representing 21,000-plus registered nurses and nurse practitioners at Kaiser Permanente announced Thursday that its bargaining team has reached a tentative contract agreement with the company, averting a two-day strike planned for Thanksgiving week.

The California Nurses Association will take the proposed deal to its membership for a vote on Tuesday, the union’s leaders said, and it includes a 22.5% increase in wages over the four-year term of the contract.

“We are very pleased with this new contract, which will help us recruit new nurses and retain experienced RNs and nurse practitioners,” said CNA President Cathy Kennedy, a registered nurse in the neonatal ICU at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center. “We not only won the biggest annual raises in 20 years, but we have also added more than 2,000 positions across our Northern California facilities. This will ensure safe staffing and better patient care.”

In a statement released Thursday night, Kaiser leaders said: “The tentative agreement honors our Northern California nurses with a market-based economic package that accounts for inflation, accelerates our investments in staffing, and addresses workplace safety, diversity and equity, remote work, and other key matters in a way that is sustainable and benefits our members and patients as well.”

The union also noted that pension and retiree health benefits would remain unchanged. Here are some other aspects of the agreement that the union touted:

  • The company agreed to hire 1,200 new graduate positions, 400 in specialty training, 300 nurses who would float between units, 80 acute re-entry nurses, 50 nurse practitioners and 80 outpatient positions.
  • Nurses said the company would provide the highest level of personal protective equipment and screen patients for infectious diseases. Kaiser also will maintain a three-month stockpile of PPE, providing the same gear when patients are suspected of having COVID-19 as they do when the cases are confirmed.
  • Kaiser also will launch a regional equity, diversity, and inclusion committee comprised of two nurses from each facility to address systemic racism within the health care system and provide demographic reporting to the union.

“It is a long time coming,” Kennedy said. “I am thrilled that Kaiser is committed to a workplace that is free from racism and discrimination and that Kaiser also agrees that we must fight racial and ethnic disparities in health care outcomes.”

Kaiser leaders said they have been aggressively recruiting and hiring nurses, about 3,300 since 2021. About 650 of those new hires came from the nurse residency program that the company runs, they said.

“Right now, every health care provider in the nation is facing staffing shortages and fighting burnout, and Kaiser Permanente is not immune,” company officials said in the statement. The tentative agreement with CNA significantly increases nurse staffing in Northern California by more than 2,000 nurses, to help ease staffing shortages and provide relief for our nurses.”

Kaiser’s nurses and nurse practitioners had been preparing to hit the picket lines Monday outside 21 Kaiser facilities across Northern California, saying that the administration refused to address ongoing concerns about workplace health and safety and chronic short staffing.

Kaiser endured a bruising 10-week strike by its mental health clinicians earlier this year, reaching an agreement to end it just last month.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee