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Kaiser Pharmacies Will Remain Open For Business

The threat of a pharmacists' strike at Kaiser Permanente, which serves the health-care needs of 3.5 million Southern Californians, caused a run on drugs in L.A. that resulted in 45 minute waits at some facilities.

See also: Prescription Drug Crisis in L.A?

Lucky for you, however: it looks like this whole episode is over.

Kaiser today announced that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Guild for Professional Pharmacists, whose 1,400 members were poised to strike last week before a deal to continue negotiating put the idea on hold:

The health care consortium said both sides have tentatively agreed to a contract.

The guild threatened to put pharmacies at 14 Kaiser facilities in SoCal out of order. The union said it wanted a restoration of pension benefits as well as more time to fill prescriptions and a minimum of 20 hours a week of work for part-timers so they could be eligible for ... health-care coverage (really).

Benjamin Chu, president of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, said:

Kaiser Permanente pharmacists are highly valued members of our health care team. We have an outstanding group of pharmacists and we are delighted a tentative agreement has been reached that ensures their continued care for our members and patients. We also deeply appreciate the flexibility of our members during this time.

Interestingly, Kaiser last week put out a statement saying that media outlets (like this one) of publishing "muddled" facts on the dispute.

This is a classic case of corporate P.R: When asked to respond to the union's specific allegations, Kaiser was silent, opting to issue blanket statements with virtually no refutation of the guild's individual claims.

When those claims got air time, however, Kaiser turned around and blamed the media for allegedly getting it wrong even though the consortium had every opportunity, from day one, to get its side of the story out there.

In any case, Kaiser says the union's claim that pension benefits were taken away from its members three years ago doesn't tell the whole story. (The guild had said that it was led to believe other Kaiser employees were to face the same fate but that the other workers never did lose these benefits).

Kaiser:

Three years ago, we negotiated a pension change with the Guild. We jointly agreed to move from a defined benefits plan to a 401(k)-style, defined contribution plan. Under this plan, Kaiser Permanente provides an annual contribution of 6 percent of compensation to each pharmacist's account, regardless of whether pharmacists match it with their own paycheck contributions. During this changeover, no pharmacists lost any pension benefits they had already earned. 

Hope that clears it up.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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