Union denounces Kaiser plan to outsource gardening services

Contra Costa medical Center
Kaiser Richmond Medical Center at 901 Nevin Ave.

A healthcare union is denouncing a plan by Kaiser Permanente to outsource gardening services.

About 60 full-time gardening positions at various Northern California locations, including three positions at Kaiser Richmond, will be eliminated as the healthcare giant moves to an outside landscaping firm, according to SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), which represents over 55,000 Kaiser employees in California.

“Under the plan, the gardeners would lose their jobs as soon as May 11 and an outside company would oversee an entirely new workforce that is paid less and receives fewer benefits than current Kaiser employees,” the union said in a statement.

The healthcare provider confirmed with the Standard that it plans to expand its use of an outside landscaping firm across its campuses. But that doesn’t necessarily mean current gardeners will lose their jobs, said John Nelson, vice president of communications for Kaiser Permanente.

“We will be working with our affected internal landscaping staff to support training and transition to other jobs within Kaiser Permanente per our existing redeployment agreement with SEIU-UHW,” Nelson said.  

Kaiser uses an outside landscaping firm at six medical centers in Northern California and has decided to expand that firm’s “comprehensive management program” to the remainder of its campuses, Nelson said.

“Kaiser Permanente has a proven track record of re-deploying the majority of our employees impacted by job changes to other positions within the organization,” he said.

A statement by the union quoted a 30-year gardener at Kaiser Richmond as fearing for his future.

“I don’t know how I will be able to support my family when my job is eliminated,” Robert Albino said in a statement. “We have a lot of pride in our work and Kaiser acknowledges we do a great job.”

The union depicted Kaiser’s plan as greedy, saying the healthcare nonprofit is performing well financially and providing its executives with massive salaries. Read a statement by the union here. Kaiser posted its latest financial figures last month, and you can read that report here.

 “I know Kaiser executives with their million-dollar salaries don’t have to worry about putting food on the table or car repairs or buying clothes for their children, but my co-workers and I worry about these things every day,” Albino said in the union statement.

Nelson said Kaiser “never” takes decisions affecting employees lightly.

“We don’t know of any other employer who offers more generous support to employees who are affected by job changes,” he said. “We offer retraining and reassignment to the impacted staff, and if that isn’t feasible, we provide them up to one year of salary and benefits.”

Since 2015, Nelson added, Kaiser has added over 8,000 SEIU-UHW-represented employees.