Updated: Hospital support workers reach new contracts

HEU demanded pay raises from multinational contractors

Two groups of Lower Mainland hospital workers have now reached new tentative agreements with private firms that perform housekeeping for health authorities.

A four-year deal was reached late Tuesday with U.S.-based Aramark, whose 1,300 employees handle housekeeping at 33 facilities in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health.

The Fraser sites include Royal Columbian, Burnaby and Eagle Ridge hospitals.

The Hospital Employees Union had staged a strike vote last week but had not yet begun job action.

Most contracted housekeeping and dietary workers at Fraser Health facilities work for French multinational Sodexho, which reached an agreement with the HEU Sept. 15. Details have not been revealed pending ratification.

Support workers at B.C. Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the B.C. Cancer Centre and several Vancouver Island facilities have conducted their own strike vote against multinational contractor Compass, with results slated for release Oct. 4.

The HEU said the main issue in all three sets of talks has been pay – it’s been two years since workers have had a raise.

Hospital support workers who had been paid $18.50 an hour were fired in 2002 when the provincial government enabled widespread privatization by the health authorities to reduce costs.

Firms like Sodexho took over with non-union workers – often the same ones – and paid them $10 an hour.

The HEU re-certified the non-union workers and negotiated contracts that brought pay back up to $15 an hour by 2011.

The province was also forced to pay compensation to fired workers after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the 2002 terminations were illegal.