Update: Kaiser Permanente IT workers to stage protest over patient safety

Staff accuse Kaiser of putting patients and data at risk by stalling contract negotiations.
By Bernie Monegain
12:18 PM
Kaiser Permanente IT workers

Kaiser building in Oakland, California. Photo via Coolcaesar

Nearly 150 Kaiser Permanente healthcare IT workers and supporters are gearing up to protest Friday what the workers say is Kaiser’s refusal to negotiate a contract with the employees who oversee millions of medical records -- a situation that the protesters argue puts both medical records and patient privacy at risk.

“Kaiser executives have their priorities backwards,” Fred Ortega, a Kaiser information technology professional said in a statement. “Instead of trying to retain skilled IT workers who protect patient information and manage the safe transfer of medical records every day, Kaiser is nickel and diming us.”

Kaiser spokesperson John Nelson said the protesters work in the Inland Empire in Southern California.

“We are in bargaining with the union over an initial contract for this group. The only remaining dispute is over wage scales,” Nelson said. “We currently pay these employees the market rate for computer desktop support workers in the Riverside/San Bernardino market.”

Nelson added that their average wage is $34.97, or more than $72,000 annually and that the union is demanding those 60 employees be paid at a much higher rate, which would make them much more highly paid than similar workers in the same market.

“We have offered a generous increase but the union is demanding considerably more,” Nelson said. “This picketing is simply over a union’s demand to get a disproportionately high wage increase for a small group of workers it now represents.”

The affected 60 information technology workers contend Kaiser is stalling contract negotiations by refusing to pay them the going rate in salary and benefits, despite the fact Kaiser has more than $30 billion in reserves.

“As a non-profit charity, Kaiser pays no corporate income or real estate taxes, and receives big taxpayer subsidies through Medicare and Medi-Cal payments,” they added. Yet, more than two dozen Kaiser executives each received more than $1 million in compensation in 2015, according to the most recent IRS filing.

The employees have backed the labor union SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West – SEIU-UHW.

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