California nurses reach contract agreement, cancel strike

(Reuters) - About 18,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in central and northern California will receive raises of 14 percent over three years under a tentative agreement averting a potential strike, the union said on Sunday. The California Nurses Association, which is part of National Nurses United, said in a statement that the agreement would result in the hiring of more registered nurses as well as improved retirement benefits. The union, which canceled a strike planned for Wednesday and Thursday of this week, said the agreement must next be ratified by the 18,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners covered at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in California. The agreement is likely to elevate standards for registered nurses across the nation, the union said. The agreement adds protections for nurses caring for patients with diseases such as Ebola, union Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. Nurses nationwide have expressed concerns about safeguards when caring for Ebola patients. Kaiser Permanente said in a news release that the tentative agreement was reached late Friday and would slow the growth in its long-term liabilities as well as give it operational flexibility. (Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Tom Heneghan)