Citing poverty-level wages as the key issue, the union representing B.C. employees of a massive French hospital contractor issued 72-hour strike notice today.
As a result, about 1,100 workers who provide cleaning, dietary and other health support services at a number of hospitals and care facilities in the Lower Mainland, on the Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island will be in a position to take strike action on Thursday.
The Hospital Employees’ Union has been negotiating for this group of workers for a first contract since March 11. And while most language issues have been resolved, no agreement has been reached on wages.
HEU asked Vince Ready – who has acted as a mediator– to book out of talks which he did this morning.
“In this dispute, Sodexho has clearly put its own foreign shareholders ahead of its responsibility to B.C. patients and taxpayers,” says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy.
“The results of this corporation’s greed are clear: the lowest wages for hospital support work in the entire country and levels of staff turnover approaching 50 per cent annually.”
Sodexho pays $10.15 an hour to 90 per cent of its workers – most of them women. The union has proposed bringing wage levels to about $12.90 to start and rising to $14.90 over four years.
“This is more than reasonable given that wage levels in the unionized hotel sector are between $13 and $15 an hour,” says Darcy.
“And these aren’t entry level jobs. These workers disinfect operating rooms and special care nurseries and meet the special dietary needs of sick patients and frail seniors.”
Sodexho has proposed raising wages to a little over $11 an hour over four years – much less than what their BC competitors – Aramark and Compass – currently pay.
Under BC’s labour laws, HEU’s Sodexho members will provide essential services staffing levels during strike action in order to ensure public safety.
“Our goal is to get Sodexho back to the table with a reasonable wage offer. And we will do that by putting maximum pressure on the company with the least possible impact on patients,” says Darcy.
Negotiations cover Sodexho food service workers at Vancouver Coastal Health Authority facilities and cleaning staff at MSA, Eagle Ridge and Mission Memorial hospitals in the Fraser Health Authority as well as a range of support services at German-Canadian, Foyer Maillard and Rosewood care homes in the Lower Mainland and Central Care in Victoria.
Sodexho’s largest contract in B.C. is a massive ten-year food services deal inked with VCHA in 2003 worth $330 million. The company’s five-year cleaning contract with the Fraser Health Authority is worth more than $70 million.
Sodexho took in more than $17 billion in global revenues last year. And its Paris-based CEO, Michel Landel, pocketed $1.4 million in salary and benefits.
In the two years since Sodexho won major privatization contracts in B.C.’s health care system, the company’s performance has been the centre of a number of critical media stories. In a recent cleaning audit, the company failed to achieve a passing grade at half of the hospitals it cleans for the Fraser Health Authority.
(604) 828-6771 (cell)