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HEU questions whether health authorities exercised due diligence in privatizing services, calls for government investigation

Foreign companies contracted to clean operating rooms, intensive care units and patient wards at major hospitals are paying wages so low that they are now offering finders’ fees, fifty buck bonuses and other incentives in an effort to attract workers, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

The union is calling on the health services minister to launch an immediate investigation into the matter to determine whether the privatization of hospital cleaning services might compromise critical infection control functions at major health care facilities.

“It appears that low wages paid by private cleaning companies are contributing to a shortage of qualified hospital cleaners,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“That’s a very worrisome development for patients and for other health care workers whose health and safety depends on the critical part these workers play in infection control.”

A notice posted at the B.C. Cancer Agency by Crothall Services Canada - a branch of U.K.-based Compass Group - offers cleaners a $50 bonus if they stay until the end of October and a $100 finders’ fee for each referral that passes an interview screening along with medical and criminal checks.

“Please help us find people to help you!” reads the notice. The starting rate for Compass cleaners is in the $9 to $10 an hour range.

The British company’s contract for cleaning services at B.C. Cancer Agency and Children’s and Women’s Hospital began less than three weeks ago when the Provincial Health Services Authority laid off nearly 200 in-house hospital housekeeping staff.

A form letter provided to job applicants by U.S.-based Aramark - the corporation that’s won a five-year, $100 million cleaning deal from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority - notes that the company “has agreed not to take the $1.00 reduction during the probationary period for employees hired at this time.”

With the reduction, the starting wage for Aramark’s hospital contract cleaners is $9.25 an hour. The company’s contract to clean operating rooms, intensive care units, and patient wards begins next month at VCHA hospitals including Vancouver General, St. Paul’s, Richmond and Lion’s Gate. Nearly 1,000 in-house cleaners will lose their jobs.


Mike Old
communications director
604-828-6771 (cell)