FHA turns over hospital cleaning functions to French corporation

News release

More than 800 skilled, experienced staff to lose jobs

Today’s announcement by the Fraser Health Authority that it will contract out critical cleaning services to the French corporation Sodexho is bad news for patients and for the more than 800 front-line staff who will lose their jobs by early next year, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

It’s a move that will put the controversial corporation in charge of cleaning operating rooms, intensive care units and other sensitive health care settings. HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says the five-year, $77 million deal is too risky.

“After our summer of SARS, the public understands that good infection control in our hospitals and long-term care facilities is key to patient and staff safety,” says Allnutt. “I question the decision of the FHA to toss hundreds of skilled and experienced cleaning staff out on the street and replace them with a company that has a checkered past in providing contract services to the public.”

Allnutt says he’s disappointed the FHA turned down a union request to discuss negotiated alternatives to privatization. And he called on the authority to take additional measures to provide labour adjustment programs for laid off workers. About 90 per cent of the workers are women.

With this announcement, the provincial government and its health authorities have completed the surrender of key infection control functions at every major hospital in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley to three foreign corporations — Sodexho, the British Compass Group and U.S.-based Aramark.

Sodexho’s hospital cleaning, laundry and food service contracts have come under fire in the U.K. and U.S. for shoddy standards. In one published incident, a special inspection team at Glasgow’s largest hospital where cleaning services are contracted to Sodexho found “filthy conditions throughout areas used by staff and patients” including bloody clothing and scrubs found in an elevator used to transport patient meals.

In tape transcripts released by the B.C. Federation of Labour last year, a local Sodexho representative said he wouldn’t hire laid off HEU members.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)