Sodexho cleaners at seven more FHA sites back fair wage bid with 98 per cent strike mandate

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The Hospital Employees’ Union will be at the Labour Relations Board on Monday to set essential services levels for major hospitals like Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial, Burnaby General and Chilliwack General after Sodexho cleaning staff voted 97.8 per cent in favour of strike action.

The vote also included the French corporation’s employees at Fellburn Care Centre in Burnaby, Queen’s Park Hospital in New Westminster and Heritage Home in Chilliwack.

Sixty per cent of the 350 workers participated in the votes which began Monday. Another 1,100 Sodexho support staff including cleaners and food service workers are already engaged in rotating job action at 29 other sites in the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, Victoria and on the Sunshine Coast.

The main issue in bargaining is the poverty-level wages paid by Sodexho which took in $17 billion in global revenues last year and has contracts with BC health authorities valued at over $400 million.

Nine out of 10 workers at the seven sites earn less than $10.50 an hour to clean operating rooms, special care nurseries and long-term care facilities.

“The low wages paid by this wealthy corporation contribute to staff turnover approaching 50 per cent annually as experienced workers leave for higher paying jobs,” says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy. “That’s not a good situation for hospital patients or long-term care residents.”

Sodexho failed to achieve benchmark cleaning standards in more than half the hospitals it cleans in the FHA according to a cleaning audit ordered by BC’s health authorities earlier this year.

“The solution is for this profitable corporation — which paid its CEO $1.4 million last year — to provide its workers with decent, family-supporting wages,” adds Darcy.

For this group — and for the group currently engaged in job action — the union has tabled proposals that would bring wages to about $13 an hour to start and move to about $15 an hour over four years.

Sodexho’s best offer to date has been to raise wages to a little over $11 an hour.

Once essential services levels have been set by the LRB, the union would be in a position to serve 72-hour strike notice.