If no deal reached, thousands Kaiser Permanente workers plan to strike Monday
With no labor agreement in place as of Friday, more than 20,000 Kaiser Permanente Southern California health care workers are preparing to strike Monday.
If a deal cannot be reached by 7 a.m. Monday, thousands of nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and others say they are ready to walk out.
"We feel like Kaiser has given us no other option and this is our last hand in the deck," said Nikki Avey, a 16-year Kaiser registered nurse and union officer for the San Diego area.
Nearly 1,000 workers plan to demonstrate Monday in Kearny Mesa at Kaiser's San Diego Medical Center.
"Maybe it (a deal) will come to the final hour," Avey said. "Which is great — if we can avert a strike that would be wonderful — but our nurses are prepared to do whatever it takes."
Workers plan to strike just as the night shift gets off on Monday,
"The nurses are ready," she said. "They have been ready for quite some time now."
Kaiser is offering up to 4% annual wage increases over the next few years with no change in benefits, but the union said they are really offering 2% raises with annual bonuses.
"Their math doesn't really equal what our math equals," Avey said, noting the bonuses would be 2% each year.
Also, a major point of contention is Kaiser’s proposal to pay new health care workers less than existing ones. The union calls it a two-tier system that would divide employees.
"We are not budging on that," Avey said. "We will not accept a two-tier wage system. It is very divisive."
In an email statement, a Kaiser spokesperson said bargaining teams have been meeting around the clock and believe a deal can be reached, with a strike avoided.
"We believe we can reach an agreement that meets our shared interests and avoid unnecessary and harmful disruptions to care," the statement said.
Kaiser officials previously said their proposals were meant to address, "the increasingly unaffordable cost of health care." The health care giant said wages and benefits account for half of operational costs and maintains that many of its employees are currently making well above "the average market wage."
The planned strike has no end date. Kaiser officials said they have contingency plans to continue care should workers walk out.