LRB appoints Vince Ready as mediator in Sodexho dispute

News release

Recent union agreement with competitor Aramark paves way to settlement, says HEU

The BC Labour Relations Board has appointed mediator Vince Ready to help settle a 51-day-old strike of health care workers against Paris-based Sodexho.

The move comes after unions representing 1400 striking health support workers and Sodexho applied for mediation under BC's Labour Code late Friday afternoon.

The Hospital Employees' Union says its members will return to work over the weekend. The union bargaining committee meets with Ready and Sodexho later next week.

HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy says her union's tentative agreement last week with one of Sodexho's competitors - Aramark - is providing momentum towards a settlement

"Sodexho can no longer insist on paying rock-bottom wages for the critically important work of cleaning operating rooms and preparing meals for patients and the frail elderly," says Darcy.

"BC taxpayers will shell out more than $400 million to Sodexho. This company can certainly afford to pay decent wages to the women and men that work in our hospitals and care facilities."

Sodexho pays ninety per cent of its workers between $10.15 and $10.46 an hour. The union's agreement with Aramark will increase wages to more than $13 an hour for comparable jobs.

Darcy says union members have run a successful strike that has put pressure on Sodexho managers despite the high level of essential services that the workers are required to provide in health care.

"Our members have taken a courageous stand against poverty level wages and their determination has brought the parties back together after 51 days on the picket line," says Darcy.

The strike began on September 15 with 1,100 workers taking action at 29 sites throughout the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island. Three-hundred and fifty housekeepers at seven more Fraser Health Authority sites joined the strike on October 14.

The HEU represents workers at all sites except one. Twenty workers on strike at Vancouver's George Pearson facility are represented by the BC Government and Service Employees' Union.

Sodexho has contracts with the Fraser Health Authority to provide cleaning services, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to provide patient and retail food services, and with four independent care facilities where it provides a range of support services.