DENVER (KDVR) — The largest nonprofit private healthcare provider in both Colorado and the U.S. could be missing some workers later this week. Union workers at Kaiser Permanente are threatening to go on strike Wednesday unless an agreement to alleviate staffing shortages is met.
The parties have less than two days to agree on a contract before workers go on strike. Workers told FOX31 they do not feel like the company is hearing them out.
“At this point, everything is on the table, and it’s up to Kaiser to come to the table with some agreements our members can take back home,” said Stephanie Felix-Sowy, the President of SEIU Local 105.
“We represent 8,000 members in Colorado — 3,000 of those members are Kaiser Permanente frontline healthcare workers,” Felix-Sowy said.
Kaiser Permanente workers want staffing solution
She said members of a national coalition of Kaiser Permanente unions have been working on contract negotiations for months, but they have been slow going. The groups and the healthcare company failed to agree, letting their current contract expire this past weekend.
Workers emphasized they want to see better staffing levels as part of a resolution.
“If you have a short staffing crisis, what that really does is creates folks doing two to three jobs. What it creates for patients is longer wait times for essential but sometimes very basic screenings and appointments,” Felix-Sowy said.
Kaiser Permanente responds
Kaiser Permanente operates more than 600 medical facilities, 30 here in Colorado. Kaiser Permanente said they have been working on staffing levels.
The company said in a statement in part:
“Despite the acute shortage of health care workers nationally, Kaiser Permanente has been able to hire more than 50,000 frontline employees nationwide in the last two years: 29,000 people in 2022, and another 22,000 so far this year. Included in this year’s new hires are more than 9,800 people hired into jobs represented by the Coalition.
Kaiser Permanente and the coalition agreed in April to a goal of hiring 10,000 new people for coalition-represented jobs by the end of 2023. We expect to reach the 10,000 new hire goal by the end of October, if not sooner, and we won’t stop there. We are committed to addressing every area of staffing that is still challenging.”Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente said it has a contingency plan to lessen the impacts of a strike if the two groups can’t reach an agreement. If they don’t find a compromise by Wednesday, the strike would last three days.