Kaiser Permanente and the union representing the health care system’s 4,000 mental health clinicians in the state said Monday they have mutually agreed to call off an open-ended strike that was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Sacramento.
But that doesn’t mean an agreement has been reached in what the union contends is Kaiser’s still- unacceptable contract proposal to resolve staffing shortages and inadequate pay.
“Kaiser has finally acknowledged to its (mental health) clinicians that its system is in crisis,” Sal Rosselli, NUHW president, said in a statement. “That progress is reflected in its latest proposals, which include the framework for a six-month collaborative process to reform Kaiser’s system with everything open for discussion, including insourcing the tens of thousands of patients currently forced to find non-Kaiser therapists.”
Kaiser Permanente, in its own statement, said the two parties were engaged in talks throughout the weekend with a neutral facilitator to try and reach a resolution.
“As we have communicated to our employees and others, we have addressed the key issues raised by labor and management,” according to the statement. “We are pleased that the NUHW strike has been called off; it was the responsible thing to do. We credit this decision to our therapists, who have been providing leadership at the table and representing the voice of our employees in all these discussions.”
However, according to the union, Kaiser is still refusing to consider adequate measures to provide immediate relief for clinicians and patients, such as establishing crisis teams at all clinics so therapists don’t have to cancel appointments with patients who have been waiting weeks or months to see them.
“We feel that a settlement is within reach, and remain ready to work with Kaiser on a fair contract,” the union said. “But if Kaiser won’t come back to the table, we will bring their proposal back to our 4,000 members with a recommendation to vote it down.”
The union said Kaiser’s mental health clinicians are following state lawmakers’ call for both sides to reach a contract agreement without striking at all.
“We call upon both parties – NUHW and Kaiser – to immediately sit down and continue to negotiate in good faith, regardless of how long that might take, until an agreement is reached,” President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said on Friday.