Pharmacists and Kaiser reach tentative agreement, averting strike (updated)

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Kaiser Permanente and the union representing its pharmacists in southern California reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday, staving off a strike threatened to begin on Monday. 

Guild for Professional Pharmacists President Dr. Robin Borden said in a statement that "neither the Guild nor Kaiser got everything it wanted." Borden said the union's bargaining committee "concluded by majority that the tentative agreement had enough favorable elements to warrant accepting it and submitting it to the membership with its recommendation."

The union posted a notice on its website saying there will be votes to ratify the tentative agreement, but it did not say when. Guild officials did not return calls seeking further comment.

Kaiser President Benjamin Chu issued a statement in which he said that the company is "delighted" that a tentative agreement has been reached. He also thanked Kaiser's members for their "flexibility...during this time." Kaiser officials said they would have no further comment beyond Chu's statement. 

The Guild, which represents more than 1,400 Kaiser pharmacists in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, Ventura and San Diego counties, cited several "key" provisions in the tentative deal:

Restoration of defined benefit pension benefits for some (mostly more senior) pharmacists who lost that coverage as a result of negotiations in 2011.

Increases in defined contribution plan contribution rates for other pharmacists, largely targeted at those pharmacists with 15 or more years of service.

Annual bonuses and a guarantee of a minimum of 32 hours per two week pay period for Guild-represented part time pharmacists.

Conversion of retiree health care from a fully employer-paid group plan to a subsidy and health retirement account to cover a portion of retirees' health care costs.

Pay increases for so-called per diem pharmacists.

This story has been updated.