The Hospital Employees' Union is taking a strike mandate to the negotiation table today, (Monday) as housekeeping services voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action.
Between Sept. 16 and 26, strike votes were taken at 33 sites covering nearly 1,300 health care workers employed by Aramark, a U.S.-based housekeeping service. The workers are calling for a living wage and more staff.
If it goes through, a strike would affect 100 Burnaby and 150 New Westminster hospital support workers, according to Neil Monckton, the union's communications officer.
"Negotiations got underway this morning. We don't expect to hear anything until later in the day," Monckton told the Burnaby NOW. "Obviously, the pressure we're putting on the employer is paying off to get them back to the table."
From 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. today, union members held an information picket outside Burnaby Hospital - much like the picket outside Royal Columbian Hospital on Sept. 19.
“We need the help. We need the support,” Penny Kostopoulos, a housekeeper, told the NOW outside Burnaby Hospital where she works. “We do the cleaning. All the infection control, we have to do it. Clearly for all that we deserve one dollar, 50 cents or 75 cents more to do it. We’re doing a good job, and we deserve better coverage.”
Kostopoulos and about 18 other housekeepers braved the rain for the short information picket, as they await a strike order.
The province privatized hospital cleaning and food services 10 years ago and four multinational corporations - Acciona, Aramark, Compass-Marquise and Sodexo - employ nearly 4,400 workers in B.C.
The Aramark negotiations cover contracted cleaning services at a number of Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast health-care facilities, including at Royal Columbian and Burnaby hospitals.
Contracts for the workers expired nearly a year ago and none have received a raise since Sept. 2011.
Strike votes for more than 1,400 union members working for Compass and its subsidiary, Marquise, will conclude on Oct. 3. Sodexo reached a tentative agreement with union bargainers on Sept. 15.
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