The Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) has negotiated a critical agreement with one of three multinational contractors that together employ more than 4,400 support staff at dozens of hospitals and care facilities in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.
According to the HEU, the tentative agreement with Paris-based Sodexo includes significant improvements to benefits, along with wage adjustments, for more than 1,400 cleaning and dietary staff located mostly in the Lower Mainland and on the Sunshine Coast.
But nearly a year of negotiations with U.S.-based Aramark and U.K.-based Compass Group (including its subsidiary Marquise) have yet to produce any significant agreement on key issues including wages, prompting the union to call for a strong strike mandate.
HEU secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson said the compensation package negotiated with Sodexo will significantly improve prescription drug, vision care and dental benefits for members and provide a modest wage boost.
“I’m expecting Sodexo’s competitors — Aramark and Compass Group — to also recognize that improvements to the compensation package will help retain skilled and experienced cleaning and dietary staff and result in higher quality services for B.C. patients,” said Pearson in a news release. “These corporations have profited from a wave of health care privatization a decade ago that saw thousands of workers unjustly laid off while wages and benefits were slashed.
“We are asking these international corporations to reinvest some of their profits in the front-line staff that play a critical role in making our hospitals safe for patients.”
The strike votes began earlier this week and will conclude in early October. Strike votes for Sodexo employees have been cancelled as a result of the tentative agreement.