Sodexho accepts mediator's report

News release

Sodexho has accepted mediator Vince Ready's recommendations for a first collective agreement with the Hospital Employees' Union.

The contract terms apply to about 1400 dietary, cleaning and other support staff who work in contracted services at hospitals and care facilities throughout the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Victoria.

Sodexho informed the union of their decision late Tuesday - after asking for an extension to the Saturday deadline set down by the mediator.

HEU announced that its members had ratified Ready's report by a margin of 65 per cent on December 9.

Ready was appointed as mediator by the Labour Relations Board on November 4 after a seven-week strike by Sodexho workers. HEU returned to work at that time.

In his November 22 report, Ready issued non-binding recommendations to settle the dispute including wage hikes that will bring the hourly wage to $13.05 by October, 2007.

For most workers, that represents a wage boost of between $2.60 and $2.90 an hour. The contract also includes grievance language, harassment protection, seniority and other rights.

"This is a major achievement for our members," says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy. "They've put on a determined fight to improve their wages and establish basic union rights in their workplace.

"The public and patients will benefit as well," says Darcy. "Better wages and working conditions will reduce staff turnover and bring stability to Sodexho's operations in health care."

This is the second major contract reached by HEU and a health services contractor in as many months. In November, union members reached a collective agreement with U.S.-based ARAMARK covering 700 cleaning staff in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

Ready's recommendations apply to eight separate HEU certifications covering workers at more than 30 health care workplaces including at BC's largest hospitals.

The largest of these includes hundreds of workers in Vancouver Coastal Health patient and retail food services. Others include cleaning staff at most Fraser Health Authority hospitals.

Workers at Mission Memorial - a stand alone unit - rejected the recommendations. It's expected that both sides will meet with Ready to find a way to arrive at a first contract for these workers.

About 15 Sodexho workers at George Pearson Centre in Vancouver - members of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union - will also be covered by the recommendations for settlement.

More than 3,000 workers employed by Sodexho and its competitors, ARAMARK and Compass, have joined the HEU since cleaning, dietary and other services were privatized by some BC health authorities beginning in 2003.