(Reuters) -Kaiser Permanente’s healthcare workers voted to ratify a new contract with the hospital chain, the union said on Thursday, ending a months-long negotiation that resulted in the largest recorded strike in the U.S. medical sector.

The union of more than 85,000 healthcare workers approved the four-year contract, effective from Oct. 1 this year, by a margin of 98.5%, the union said.

The union and Kaiser Permanente had reached a deal last month after 75,000 members took part in a three-day strike, which included nurses, medical technicians and support staff at hundreds of Kaiser hospitals and clinics from California to Virginia.The new contract includes across-the-board wage increases totaling 21% over four years, an increased payout for employees under a performance-sharing plan and commitments to address a staffing crisis, including increased training, education and mass hiring events.

The new deal also has protective terms around subcontracting and outsourcing of work, and a one-year accelerated hiring process by the hospital system, the union said.

The union had accused the company of failing to address a prolonged staffing crunch that has left employees feeling overworked and underpaid while compromising patient care.

New minimum wages will reach $25 per hour in California for union-represented employees over three years and $23 per hour in other states where the hospital chain operates.

Kaiser is one of the largest U.S. medical employers with 24,000 doctors, 68,000 nurses and 213,000 technicians, clerical workers and administrative staff.

It serves about 13 million people in eight states and the District of Columbia. The coalition of eight unions represents medical professionals and support staff at Kaiser.

Labor unions across the United States have grown bolder in their demands in the last two years, pressing for higher wages and better benefits to combat a loss of spending power caused by inflation and the healthcare sector has emerged at the forefront of that trend.

(Reporting by Bhanvi Satija and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Anil D’Silva)

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