VCHA housekeeping privatization bad news for workers, patients
It’s the largest layoff yet in Liberals’ contracting out scheme
Today’s announcement by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority that 950 hospital housekeepers will lose their jobs, and the important cleaning and infection control services they perform will be privatized to a U.S.-based multinational is bad news for both workers and patients, charges the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).
The privatization agreement puts the Aramark Corp. in charge of cleaning operating rooms, intensive care units, and other highly specialized health care settings.
“Housekeepers are a critical part of infection control measures to ensure that patients have a safe, germ free environment in hospitals,” says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic. “This latest privatization move will put patients at risk and will prove more costly over the long run,” she warns.
“Hundreds of skilled and experienced workers are expecting to get their pinks slips soon and will be fired starting early in the fall,” she says. “They’ll be replaced by a low wage workforce that will lack the skills and knowledge essential to maintaining a germ-free environment.”
Other jurisdictions like the United Kingdom have already paid a high price when they experimented with privatized support services like housekeeping, says Bosancic.
“Cleaning and infection control standards declined scandalously because of privatization, and patients died as a result.
“Now health authorities in Britain are contracting housekeeping services back in house to restore infection control and cleanliness standards.” The VCHA announcement, says Bosancic, ends months of dread that has hung over worksites like a heavy cloud. “Many of our members — mostly women with decades of service — were overwhelmed by the news, and reacted with tears and anger.”
Bosancic says her union will press the health authority to live up to its commitment to give all current housekeepers an opportunity to work under Aramark. And she served notice that HEU will immediately begin organizing efforts at all of the affected VCHA sites.
Earlier privatization deals with multinational companies set wage rates in the $9 an hour range.
Along with the British firm Compass Plc and the French multinational Sodexho, Aramark is one of the world’s big three operators. Annual revenues from its prison, food service, housekeeping and day care operations are about $9 billion. The company’s CEO received about $6.3 million in pay and bonuses last year. By comparison, an Aramark worker in the U.S. is paid as little as $7.50 an hour.
HEU is also demanding that the VCHA release full details of the Aramark deal so that the public is aware of what standards and monitoring provisions are in place.
— 30 — Contact: Stephen Howard,communications director (604) 240-8524