SEIU-United Healthcare Workers employees stage a protest at Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center Thursday. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on March 16, 2018 - 12:36 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

Kaiser Permanente employees across Northern California are protesting against the health system, with Fresno’s employees being the latest to do so.

The protest, which took place on Thursday, was organized by the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers union. The organization’s picket was over its claims that the corporation wanted to reduce wages by 10 percent in the Sacramento area and 20 percent in the Central Valley.

Kaiser Permanente Emergency Department technician Carrie Gage said that this is despite the corporation making $32 billion in 2017, its most profitable year ever. Gage also claimed that Kaiser Permanente is planning to outsource thousands of jobs in places like pharmacy and emergency psychiatric services.

“[With] outsourcing, you don’t have the same integrity of the work,” she said. “When you have $32 billion and you don’t invest in your employees, then they don’t have the same commitment to quality that they perform.”

However, John Nelson, vice president of communications for Kaiser Permanente, said that the decision for an external pharmacy storage and distribution center was decided after eight months of deliberation and extensive discussions with the unions.

He further stated that the layoff of 700 call center workers was “simply not true,” but that Kaiser Permanente was looking at implementing new technology and work processes. This includes improvements to booking appointments to improve management of member calls.

In regards to pay, Nelson argued that the union has a contract and they haven’t begun bargaining for the new one, and that the protests were counterproductive.

“While this union is staging picketing,” he said, “the physicians and employees of Kaiser Permanente will remain focused on the important work of delivering high-quality, affordable care to our members and improving the health of the communities we serve.”

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