More Sodexho cleaners join HEU

News release

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Poverty-level wages, heavy workloads cited as main factor as hospital workers at six additional sites vote 87 per cent to join union.

Another 360 hospital cleaners working for the French corporation Sodexho have voted overwhelmingly to join the Hospital Employees’ Union.

As a result, cleaners at Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial, Chilliwack General, Burnaby General and Queen’s Park hospitals and at the Fellburn Care Centre (Burnaby) and Heritage Village (Chilliwack) join 1,100 other Sodexho employees that HEU has organized since the provincial government privatized hospital services.

HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy says the union’s new members are concerned about low wages and crushing workloads.

“Sodexho is racking up big profits for its global shareholders on the backs of B.C. workers and patients,” says Darcy. “The result is high staff turnover and a shortage of experienced workers to properly clean our hospitals.”

Most of the votes had been cast a year ago, but the Labour Relations Board sealed the ballot boxes pending objections to HEU’s organizing drive by Sodexho.

The LRB dismissed those objections and the ballots were counted Monday afternoon.

Sodexho cashed in on the B.C. Liberals’ privatization of hospital services by obtaining more than $400 million in cleaning and food service contracts from health authorities in 2003.

The corporation — which brought in more than $17 billion in global revenues last year — pays an hourly wage of $10.15 to most of its B.C. employees. A full-time worker supporting two children at that wage falls more than $10,000 below the poverty line established by Statistics Canada.

HEU is bargaining with Sodexho for food service workers at Vancouver Coastal Health Authority facilities and cleaning staff at MSA, Eagle Ridge and Mission Memorial hospitals, as well as employees at German-Canadian, Foyer Maillard and Rosewood care homes in the Lower Mainland and Central Care in Victoria.

Union members at those facilities are taking strike votes this week to back their proposals for a fair contract. During talks that began in March, Sodexho proposed a minor increase to the hourly wage of 20 cents a year. At that rate, it would take 25 years for a hospital special care nursery cleaner to equal wages paid to unionized hotel cleaners today.

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Contact: Mike Old, communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)