Kaiser workers in Woodland Hills to protest outsourcing of call center jobs

Kaiser Permanente workers plan to gather Tuesday, July 20 in Woodland Hills to protest the company’s practice of outsourcing of call center jobs to other states, a move they say has also resulted in longer wait times for patients seeking medical care.

The employees, represented by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, will stage the action at 11 a.m. at the Kaiser Woodland Hills Medical Center at 5601 De Soto Ave.

Nearly 300 call center employees work at that facility and another 600 are employed at a larger Kaiser facility at 4330 E. Mira Loma Ave. in Anaheim.

Another Kaiser call center closed last year in Baldwin Park and a fourth facility was shuttered this year in Los Angeles. They used to employ about 1,400 workers, but that’s been whittled to 1,000. Worker wages for the job vary depending on experience, but the starting pay is $23.15 per hour, the union said.

SEIU-UHW said the healthcare giant currently employs 187 call center agents through a Morrow, Ga. company called Chime Solutions.

“We see all these jobs going to companies outside of California and of course we worry about the impact on our livelihoods and our patients,” Kaiser employee Judith Vasquez-Roberson said in a statement. “Kaiser is trying to get more with less.”

Outsourcing, she said, is bad for patients and “devastating” for workers and the communities the healthcare giant serves.

“We worry that these outside contractors are not being held to the standard Kaiser employees are,” Vasquez-Roberson said. “We often hear from patients who are frustrated by the process because they’re not getting the care they need when they need it.”

In a statement issued late Monday afternoon, Kaiser said it respects the union’s right to lawfully gather and express their concerns, although it strongly disagrees with SEIU-UHW’s false claims about the company’s actions.

“Using vendors to fulfill staffing needs during high demand times is not a focus of our overall efficiency efforts at Kaiser Permanente,” the company said. “Whenever business conditions require us to make changes to staffing, we communicate transparently, thoughtfully and in partnership with union leadership.”

SEIU-UHW said that when Kaiser members call in and get someone from out of state, that employee typically isn’t as knowledgeable about the area or the information patients are seeking. Those calls often get routed back to Southern California, the union said, resulting in longer patient wait times.

In a grievance with Kaiser on May 28, the union said Kaiser’s outsourcing with Chime Solutions began in December 2020. The grievance shows the union held an initial meeting with Kaiser in December in hopes of resolving the issue and that additional meetings were held in March and May of this year.

Companies typically outsource jobs to reduce costs and boost efficiency.

When Kaiser announced plans to begin laying off call center employees in Baldwin Park in February 2018, SEIU-UHW said additional layoffs were in the works for Woodland Hills and Los Angeles. Those jobs, the union said, were being moved to Riverside, Fontana and San Diego where the positions would pay $2 an hour less.

It’s unknown how much the call center workers in Georgia are being paid but the minimum wage in the Peach State is $7.25 hourly.

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