Arbitrator tells British corporation to boost wages for local long-term care workers

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About 60 long-term care workers employed by U.K.-based Compass Group at two Lower Mainland long-term care homes will see their wages rise by as much as $2.32 an hour, as a result of an award issued Monday by a Labour Relations Board arbitrator.

The first contract award confirms a mediated agreement reached in April after more than a year of negotiations between the Hospital Employees' Union and Compass – a deal unanimously ratified by union members but later rejected by company executives.

Arbitrator Brian Foley imposed the terms of the mediated agreement on Compass under the provisions of Section 55 of the B.C. Labour Code on Monday.

His award brings wage rates at Whiterock's Evergreen Baptist Home and Burnaby's Normanna Rest Home into line with those contained in first contracts covering more than 2,000 HEU members who work for the company's competitors – Aramark and Sodexho – in the Fraser Health Authority and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

It also comes in the midst of two other sets of negotiations between HEU and Compass that cover more than 1,000 dietary and housekeeping workers in the Provincial Health Services Authority and the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The talks between HEU and Compass for PHSA broke off last week after the company refused to meet during all but two hours of a four-day bargaining session. The union is now seeking a strike mandate to push for a new contract.

"Compass needs to look beyond the bottom line and take its responsibilities to B.C. patients and workers more seriously," says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy who is hoping that the long-term care award will encourage the British company to adopt a more realistic bargaining position.

HEU members at Evergreen and Normanna will receive immediate increases – retroactive to May 1, 2006 – ranging between $1.00 and $1.32 an hour, a further $1 an hour increase January 1, 2007, lump sum payments, shift differential premiums and transportation allowances.

The majority of Compass workers at Normanna and Evergeen deliver housekeeping, laundry and dietary services and are currently paid between $9.68 and $10 an hour.