Thousands of Kaiser Permanente mental health workers will delay their strike after the sudden death of the company’s CEO.
CEO Bernard Tyson died Sunday, just one day before 4,000 psychologists, mental health therapists and other employees belonging to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) were supposed to go on strike over concerns regarding patient wait times and access to care. As a result, the union voted to delay the strike.
“We offer our condolences to Bernard’s family, friends and colleagues,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said in a statement Sunday. “Our members dedicate their lives to helping people through tragedy and trauma, and they understood that a strike would not be appropriate during this period of mourning and reflection.”
The five day strike would have shut down mental health clinics at more than 100 Kaiser facilities in California, according to a press release from NUHW. Kaiser mental health workers argue that they’re understaffed and overworked, forcing people to wait too long or forgo treatment that the company is legally required to provide.
Meanwhile, Kaiser argues it has offered workers an excellent wage and benefits package, as well as more time to do paperwork, according to the Sacramento Bee. Additionally, the company has agreed to make more time for follow up mental health visits, hired hundreds of new therapists and made large investments in mental health, John Nelson, Kaiser’s vice president of communications, told the newspaper.
A new date for the strike has not yet been set.
In the meantime, Kaiser workers are willing to pick negotiations with the Oakland-based integrated managed care consortium back up, according to NUHW.
“They remain ready to resume negotiations with Kaiser to discuss their proposals for improving access to mental health care and boosting the recruitment and retention of clinicians by providing them with the same retirement and health benefits that Kaiser has agreed to give 140,000 other employees in contracts settled over the past year,” NUHW said in a statement.