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Employees of the French multinational Sodexho who work at a private, for-profit seniors retirement complex in Port Coquitlam have voted to join the Hospital Employees’ Union to win stronger representation and better opportunities to improve wages and working conditions.

The 18 employees at the Mayfair on the Green facility where Sodexho has a contract to provide food and housekeeping services voted Wednesday in a Labour Relations Board supervised vote. Those ballots were counted this morning, with the workers overwhelmingly electing to join HEU.

“This is a small but important victory for all health care workers in our efforts to improve pay, benefits and working conditions for employees of major multinational companies like Sodexho who are pushing for private health care,” says union spokesperson Zorica Bosancic.

The workers are halfway through a 5-year agreement negotiated by their former organization, the Service Workers Union, a small outfit that is outside the mainstream labour movement. That contract provides for wage rates as low as $8.50 an hour and only meager benefits.

Meanwhile in North Vancouver, 22 employees of the Summerhill retirement living complex also voted overwhelmingly to join HEU earlier this week. The key issue for the housekeepers and food service workers is to win greater respect from onsite administration.

“We look forward to working constructively with the Summerhill employer to negotiate a fair first contract for our new members,” says Bosancic.

Bosancic says the two new certifications are part of a comprehensive HEU organizing strategy to counter the efforts of the Campbell government to rollback wages and workplace protections for health care workers through privatization and legislated contract breaking.