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Year of strikes continues as 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in U.S. walk off the job

The largest ever strike in the U.S. health care sector is set to start on Wednesday as 75,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente in a handful of states walk off the job demanding better wages.

Three day strike is largest ever for a health care company

Kaiser Permanente workers walk the picket line.

Healthcare workers launched a planned three-day strike at Kaiser Permanente facilities on Wednesday, even as the union and the company said talks were continuing. Strikes have begun in Virginia and Washington, with additional strikes set to begin later in the day on the West Coast.

Union officials said the planned strike against Kaiser, one of the nation's leading not-for-profit healthcare networks and managed-care organizations, would mark the largest strike ever in the U.S. medical industry.

The tight U.S. labour market and inflation have led to contentious contract negotiations and strikes over pay and benefits for workers in numerous fields this year, including the automobile, rail, airline and entertainment industries.

The Kaiser union had set a deadline of 9 a.m. eastern time Wednesday to reach a deal on a new pact covering nurses, medical technicians and support staff in hundreds of hospitals across California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"Both Kaiser Permanente management and coalition union representatives are still at the bargaining table, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement," Kaiser said in a statement Wednesday.

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In Virginia and Washington, D.C., only optometrists and pharmacists would be on strike, but the impact on patients in California, Colorado, Oregon, and part of southwestern Washington state would be more substantial, a Kaiser spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The unions have been pressing for better wages and for Kaiser to fill more jobs. Staffing levels have been a major sticking point, with the union insisting Kaiser needs to hire 10,000 new healthcare workers to fill current vacancies.

Kaiser employs 68,000 nurses and 213,000 technicians, clerical workers and administrative staff, alongside 24,000 doctors.

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

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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