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Deal reached between Kaiser Permanente and pharmacists to avoid strike

Kaiser says its pharmacies are scheduled to be open as normal Monday.

CALIFORNIA, USA — 6:33 a.m. Monday update:

Local 39 Operating Engineers strike captain Steve Freed told our Zach Fuentes on Monday that Kaiser Permanente is not bargaining with the union in good faith despite the health care provider's previous statements.

He said the engineers haven't received any new economic proposals since Oct. 15.

"Our union is available 24/7 and mediation is happening now, where (mediators) are available too," Freed said. "Kaiser is the one who is not coming back to the table."

Local 39 operating engineers have been striking for two months now, saying they're owed better contracts to keep up with the rising cost of living around Sacramento.

While other health care worker unions held out their protests in favor of tentative contract agreements, members of Local 39 Operating Engineers are picketing outside Roseville Medical Center on Monday.

6:15 a.m. Monday update:

Kaiser Permanente said Monday morning that it and the Guild for Professional Pharmacists reached a tentative deal.  Pharmacies are scheduled to be open as normal today.

An agreement between Kaiser Permanente and Local 39 Operating Engineers hasn't been reached. The engineers have been on strike for nearly two months.

Kaiser Permanente says it is still negotiating with Local 39 engineers and the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Original Story:

A one-week pharmacist strike could see Kaiser Permanente temporarily close their outpatient pharmacies.

The strike is being put on by the Guild for Professional Pharmacists and comes amid bargaining negotiations between Kaiser and the labor union. 

If the strike happens, they'd also be joined by Local 39, another labor union comprised of Kaiser’s stationary and biomedical engineers. Local 39 has been picketing for nearly two months amid their own negotiations.

In the event of a strike, Kaiser is expecting impacts, so here's what to know.

RELATED: Kaiser Permanente, unions reach labor deal to avert strike

What's going on?

In the simplest terms, some unions are in the midst of negotiations with Kaiser regarding their contracts. While news of a tentative agreement was reached on Saturday, that was for a particular labor group, the Alliance of Health Care Unions.

Negotiations with the Guild for Professional Pharmacists and engineers are separate from that agreement and are still ongoing. The pharmacist union could strike from Nov. 15 to Nov. 22 and be joined on the picket lines by Local 39, who is already on strike.

24-hour "sympathy strikes" were also announced by Kaiser nurses in support of Local 39, according to the California Nurses Association. These are expected to start on Nov. 19 at 7 a.m. Locations in Manteca, Modesto, Roseville, Sacramento, and Vacaville are part of the sympathy strikes. According to Kaiser Permanente, SEIU-UHW Local 20 and Local 29 are expected to to have their sympathy strikes on Nov. 18, and the union that represents Kaiser's mental health professionals (NUHW) also announced a one-day strike for Friday, November 19.

What does this mean for patients and the pharmacy?

In a message to patients, Kaiser said they would temporarily close their outpatients pharmacy from Nov. 15 to the morning of Nov. 22. The mail delivery service will remain open.

"We have prepared thoroughly to care for our patients in the event of a strike. We are working diligently to reduce the impact," Kaiser Permanente said in a statement to ABC10. "During the strike, care will be provided by experienced physicians covering additional roles and clinical staff, with the support of trained and qualified contingency staff.

If a prescription is urgently needed, staff will provide direction on how people can fill their prescription at a retail pharmacy. In the message to patients, Kaiser said there's no cost for Medi-Cal members, and that, for other members, the usual cost share for in-network pharmacy services will apply. Hospital pharmacies for inpatient care and critical infusion services will still be operating.

The strike could also impact lab and radiology services. Kaiser encouraged people to schedule an appointment if they need the services between Nov. 18 and Nov. 19. 

Their emergency department will be operating, but Kaiser is expecting wait times during the strike.

"We understand that access to care and every appointment can be critical to a patient and their family and we are sorry that this situation is causing concerns for some patients. We want to assure our patients that we have not and would not ever postpone any urgent or emergency care, or critical medical appointments," Kaiser said.

Who's on strike?

As of Sunday, the Guild of Professional Pharmacists and Local 39 engineers are expected to be on strike. Kaiser said they'd have to reach a deal by 3 a.m. Monday to avert the strike with pharmacists.

"We are continuing to bargain in good faith with the Guild for Professional Pharmacists and Local 39 Operating Engineers and hope to reach agreements very soon," Kaiser said in part in a statement.

The pharmacists union represents about 1,200 pharmacists in Northern California and Local 39 represents about 600 engineers in Northern California.

"We believe the bargaining table is the best place to resolve issues – we are confident we will reach agreement with the Pharmacy Guild and Local 39 quickly and look forward to welcoming our valued staff back to work," Kaiser said.

For more information, visit KP.org.

RELATED: Kaiser Permanente braces for looming widespread strike of pharmacists, healthcare workers, engineers


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