Hospital Employees' Union members employed by Sodexho at a number of BC health care facilities have voted 65 per cent in favour of a contract settlement recommended by mediator Vince Ready.
If those terms are also accepted by the French corporation, Ready's recommendations will form the basis of a first contract covering about 1400 cleaners, dietary staff and other support workers at hospitals and care homes throughout the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Victoria.
Ready was appointed as mediator by the Labour Relations Board on November 4 after a seven-week strike by Sodexho workers.
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 significant first step for Sodexho workers," says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy. "It achieves our main goals of improving wages and establishing basic union rights and protections for members in the workplace."
Darcy urged Sodexho to ratify Ready's recommendations by tomorrow's deadline.
"Improving wages and working conditions will reduce staff turnover resulting in better services for patients and the public," says Darcy. "This agreement will bring stability to Sodexho's operations."
If ratified by Sodexho, it will be 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 nine separate HEU certifications covering workers at more than 30 health care workplaces. The largest of these includes hundreds of workers in Vancouver Coastal Health patient and retail food services.
HEU members ratified Ready's recommendations in eight out of the nine certifications. Workers at Mission Memorial - a stand alone unit - rejected the recommendations.
About 15 Sodexho workers at George Pearson Centre in Vancouver - members of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union - also ratified 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.