Hospital cleaners and dietary workers across 75 hospitals in B.C., including Nanaimo, have voted overwhelmingly to strike, according to the Hospital Employees’ Union.
Employees have delivered a strike mandate as talks continue for collective agreements with four companies: Aramark, Acciona, Sodexo, Compass and Compass’ subsidiary Marquise, a union press release shows.
Nanaimo Regional General Hospital as well as hospitals and extended care facilities south of the city are affected.
Union employees are unhappy with what they see as a lack of job security and unfair wages, but HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said that she hopes that talks can still prevent a strike.
“We believe that a fair and reasonable agreement is within reach if employers get serious about addressing low wages and a total lack of job security that creates uncertainty for workers when health authorities change contractors,” Whiteside said.
Neil Monckton, communications officer for HEU, said essential services have been put in place and so 72-hour strike notice can be served anytime.
The essential service level means while there will be some reduction in the numbers of people working, it’s not to a level that will impact the safety and health of patients and residents, he said, adding the main impact is usually that management has to fill in.
HEU is in meetings with employers for Vancouver Island workers this week, and Monckton said he does not expect anything will happen very soon and there is no impasse with Compass-Marquise, the employer for this area. The union, however, now has a mandate, effective over a 90-day period, to take to the table. Monckton said he thinks it makes it pretty clear that members are fully backing their demands.
There are about 150 hospital cleaners and dietary workers at NRGH.
-files from Katya Slepian, Black Press