Weekend Contract Agreement Averts Kaiser Permanente Nurses' Strike

The tentative agreement, which must be ratified by 18,000 RNs, calls for a 14% raise over 3 years and retirement protections, as well as safety steps including training to prevent nurses from being harmed by infectious diseases such as Ebola.

The California Nurses Association (CNA) and Kaiser Permanente reached a contact agreement over the weekend that caused the nurses’ union to cancer strikes planned for January 21-22, 2015, that would have affected 86 hospitals in central and northern California.

Instead, the CNA, which is affiliated with the National Nurses’ Union (NNU), heralded the tentative pact for 18,000 members, most of whom are registered nurses (RNs) as a groundbreaking settlement that “is likely to elevate RN standards across the nation.”

While the agreement includes standard economic elements, including a 14% raise over 3 years and additional protections for the nurses’ retirement plans, the more eye-catching elements may be over non-economic issues:

· Kaiser must hire of hundreds of RNs to improve the quality of patient care and meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

· The pact includes new workplace protections against needle sticks and training to protect nurses from contracting infectious diseases such as Ebola.

· It features a first-in-the-nation requirement that 25 RNs receive paid release time each year to attend special training for working in hurricane zones or global disaster areas. Training would occur through NNU’s disaster relief program, the Registered Nurse Reponse Network.

In a statement, RoseAnn DeMoro, CNA executive director, 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.”

Kaiser Permanente said in a news release that the tentative agreement was reached late Friday and would slow the growth in its long-term liabilities as well as give it operational flexibility.

The pact’s employee safety elements come after 2 nurses in a Texas hospital contracted Ebola while caring for a patient who showed up in the emergency room with the disease and later died, despite intense efforts to save his life. NNU leaders had decried efforts by US hospitals to properly train nurses to care for Ebola patients for several weeks before the nurses’ infections occurred.

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