Bargaining Update: Spotlight on Work of the Future

This week, nearly two hundred people from Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions met in Manhattan Beach, California. They broke into subgroups to discuss management and union interests for 2015 National Bargaining. The talks, which will determine the future direction of the Labor Management Partnership, went smoothly.

In addition to wages and benefits, 2015 negotiations focus on three topics:

•    Total Health and Workplace Safety
•    Work of the Future, and
•    Operational and Service Excellence in Partnership

“Health care is changing,” said Hal Ruddick, the executive director of the Coalition. “We have a huge new influx of members because of the Affordable Care Act. These new members have different needs and we can meet those needs through the solutions we create bargaining in partnership.” (See bargaining in action in this new slide show).

Planning for tomorrow’s jobs

Equipping frontline workers with the skills and knowledge for tomorrow’s jobs—an essential element in preserving Kaiser Permanente’s competitive edge—is the focus of the Work of the Future subgroup. Participants heard the latest information on how health care, and health care jobs, are evolving.

They also spoke up with their insights and concerns. “When I was younger, I was given opportunities and I ran with it,” said subgroup member Julie Markiewicz, auditor and VP, SEIU Local 49 in Portland, Oregon. “We want to give younger generations the same opportunities.”

Zeth Ajemian, the director of Workforce Planning and Development for Southern California and Hawaii, said that flexibility, foresight and planning are essential to developing a workforce that is ready for coming changes in the health care industry.

“To prepare our workforce for the future, we need to align staffing with current care delivery transformation, innovation and new technologies that meet the evolving needs of our members,” he said in the subgroup. “A portion or all of an employee’s work will change and their skills, training and experience will need to change to fit that job.”

Meeting patients’ needs

Leveraging technology to meet the emerging needs of our patients will be another key issue for the bargaining team, said Dennis Dabney, senior vice president of Labor Relations and the Labor Management Partnership.

“We need to decide how we bring that new technology into our work environment,” he said. “We need to react more to what our patients want, rather than what we want to give them.”

Whatever innovations are designed and implemented in the future, frontline workers need to be engaged from the start, say union partners.

The next National Bargaining session will take place from April 28 – 30.