Kaiser Permanente workers say deal unlikely to avert strike

(Reuters) -The coalition of unions representing healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente said late on Saturday it is unlikely there will be a new agreement with the healthcare provider, as their current contract expires and the unions prepare for strike action.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said it and the company remained far apart on important issues.

Kaiser Permanenete said that it is continuing to bargain with the union and work stoppages will not begin until October 4.

“We remain optimistic that we will reach an agreement and avoid an unnecessary strike, which the Coalition unions have called for starting on Wednesday morning, Oct 4,” it said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Earlier in September, more than 75,000 Kaiser healthcare workers called for a strike from Oct. 4 to Oct. 7 across California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Virginia and Washington DC, in what would be the largest healthcare workers’ strike, according to the coalition.

Workers of the coalition are demanding resolution on a short-staffing crisis, a pay increase and an improvement in medical plans.

A tight U.S. labor market, the expiry of union contracts and high living costs have led to tough negotiations for pay hikes and benefits from workers and triggered strikes and protests across industries.

Nearly 309,700 workers have been involved in work stoppages and strikes through August this year, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, putting 2023 on track to become the busiest year for strikes since 2019.

Auto workers in the United States have also been on strike against the Detroit Three automakers, Ford General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis.

(Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu and Jose Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Nick Zieminski)