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And internal emails reveal senior health authority
executives active in efforts to prevent HEU
from organizing workers in privatized services
The Hospital Employees’ Union claims that the French corporation Sodexho — awarded a five-year hospital-cleaning contract by the Fraser Health Authority — is engaged in anti-union practices at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
The union filed an unfair labour practice complaint at the Labour Relations Board late Monday alleging that Sodexho has actively interfered in the rights of its employees at the hospital to join a union of their choice.
And internal FHA emails obtained by the union and released today show that senior health authority executives at the FHA — rattled by HEU’s recent successes organizing contract cleaning staff at hospitals it operates — are encouraging private contractors to take steps to prevent HEU from organizing privatized health services.
“Sodexho needs to respect the laws protecting workers’ rights in this country and stop interfering in their right to join a union of their choice,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.
“And this health authority should spend more time monitoring the performance of its private contractors and less time plotting ways to deprive workers of their democratic rights.”
HEU has been organizing Sodexho workers at Royal Columbian Hospital since May and filed an application to represent them last week.
In its labour board complaint, HEU alleges that Sodexho used intimidation and coercion to prevent workers from joining the union or continuing to belong to the union by issuing a memorandum on June 14 urging its workers to vote in favour of a contract it inked with the Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers (IWA) Local 1-3567.
Workers at the site had already rejected that contract. And the LRB has already ruled that the IWA is not the bargaining agent for Sodexho workers at three other FHA hospitals. In each case these workers voted overwhelmingly to join HEU.
The union has pending applications to represent Sodexho workers at an additional six sites in the FHA.
HEU’s application also alleges that the IWA — working on behalf of Sodexho — threatened workers with job loss in an effort to intimidate and coerce them from joining or belonging to HEU.
HEU is asking the LRB to declare Sodexho, IWA and FHA in violation of the Labour Relations Code and to grant the union an automatic certification for the workers at Royal Columbian.
Sodexho has what HEU views as a history of anti-union activities. It’s published a “union avoidance” manual for its managers. And in 2002, it engaged in a controversial strike-breaking campaign at a Scottish hospital where it bussed in teenaged army recruits from Wales to replace striking workers.
Sodexho is paying its employees at Royal Columbian between $9 and $11 an hour. The corporation’s global revenues are more than CDN$16 billion annually.
Contact: Margi Blamey, communications officer, 604-785-5324 (cell)