Imperial Place hires guards as pickets go up around facility

News release

Striking health care workers wonder how employer can afford it

The employer at Imperial Place in Surrey seems to have resorted to bullying tactics — both of its striking workers and of the residents in the private, for-profit independent living facility.

First, in anticipation of a strike, it informed the residents that if the workers were to win their bargaining demands, they would have no choice but to hike the rents. But that backfired when some residents and their families told management they didn’t appreciate their “strike-breaking” tactics.

Then the employer hired security guards to keep watch on the strikers as they picketed the facility their first day on the picket line yesterday. And they repeated the exercise today.

The strikers are puzzled because, although their employer says they cannot possibly meet the union’s modest wage and benefits demands, it seems the Oregon-based Holiday Retirement Corporation which owns Imperial Place, has enough money to hire security guards.

“For 28 health workers, most of them women and many of them young students, to be considered threatening enough to have to hire security guards, is ridiculous,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “And that’s not why they are doing it. This is intimidation, pure and simple.”

Picketers suspect they are being videotaped, and the guards have been directing comments at strikers from the security of their vehicle. Many of the strikers are young students, and the older workers feel that they are especially vulnerable to being bullied.

The HEU members are out on strike over wages, extension of benefits to their dependents and footwear coverage. Their contract expired at the end of October 2000 and they have been negotiating since September 2000. The majority of HEU Imperial Place members work in the kitchen and housekeeping departments and currently earn between $8.00 and $13.75 an hour.