Sodexho workers give union 96 per cent strike mandate
[Burnaby] — Employees of the French corporation Sodexho working at local health facilities have delivered a 96 per cent strike mandate to their union bargaining committee. The votes were carried out over the last week and counted yesterday in Burnaby.
Bargaining for a first contract resumes Tuesday and Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager Judy Darcy is hopeful that Sodexho will take more of an interest in reaching a negotiated first contract with local workers.
The negotiations covering 1100 privatized health support workers at hospitals and nursing homes in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, in Victoria and on the Sunshine Coast began March 11.
“Right now, a job with Sodexho in a B.C. hospital is a passport to poverty,” says Darcy noting that nearly 90 per cent of the company’s employees earn just $10.15 an hour.
Last year, Sodexho’s Paris-based top executive Michel Landel received a 16 per cent hike to his salary and benefits package now worth $1.4 million a year. But Sodexho is telling local workers that an annual increase of 20 cents an hour is good enough.
“These aren’t entry level jobs,” adds Darcy. “These workers disinfect operating rooms and special care nurseries and meet the special dietary needs of sick patients and frail seniors.
“But at the rate of increase proposed by Sodexho, it will take these workers 25 years to reach the hourly wage levels paid to many unionized hotel staff in B.C. today.”
Low wages force many to hold down other jobs and the union estimates that between one-third and one-half of Sodexho employees stop working for the company after less than a year.
“High staff turnover and crushing workloads are definitely having an impact on our members’ ability to deliver quality services to patients and seniors,” says Darcy.
The talks cover Sodexho food service workers at Vancouver Coastal Health Authority facilities and cleaning staff at MSA, Eagle Ridge and Mission Memorial hospitals in the Fraser Health Authority as well as a range of support services at German-Canadian, Foyer Maillard and Rosewood care homes in the Lower Mainland and Central Care in Victoria.