Kaiser Permanente strike of nearly 32,000 workers halted after last-second deal reached

Kaiser Permanente and health workers reached a last-second deal on Saturday to avoid a strike of more than 32,000 workers that was set to go into effect Monday.

The new four-year contract includes annual wage increases each year through 2025 and doesn’t cut any health benefits. The contract, which still needs to be ratified, between the Alliance of Health Care Unions and Kaiser affects nearly 50,000 healthcare employees across 22 unions.

“This contract protects our patients, provides safe staffing, and guarantees fair wages and benefits for every Alliance member,” said Hal Ruddick, the alliance’s executive director, in a statement Saturday.

The last-minute deal comes a few weeks after the union rejected a contract offer from Kaiser that it claimed was a two-tier wage offer. It gave pay bumps to current employees, but it would lead to a 15% cut to future members’ wages and benefits, the union said.

Kaiser had previously said it faced increased expenses due to the costs of care, especially among workforce wages. The company posted $1.3 billion in profits for the third quarter of the year—down from the $3 billion it made in the second quarter—due to increased expenses from the latest wave of COVID-19.

RELATED: Catholic Health, union reach tentative agreement to end 5-week, 2,000-worker strike

The union did not immediately respond to comment on the specifics of the wage provisions in the tentative deal. Kaiser refused to comment further on the deal beyond what was announced.

However, the release on the deal said there will be no reductions or takeaways of existing medical and dental health coverage and there will be a new bonus plan for workers.

The contract also includes “new safe staffing and workload language” as healthcare workers have faced major burnout due to fighting the pandemic.

The unions and Kaiser also agreed to form a new task force that aims to find “innovative ways to address issues of affordability while continuing to work together to protect high-quality patient care,” a release on the deal said.

The deal appears to end the latest example of labor strife to affect the healthcare industry. Earlier this month, Catholic Health and its union reached a deal to end a five-week walkout of 2,000 workers.

The union’s strike was also sparked by low pay increases and insufficient language to address staffing shortages.