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Strike looms, talks drag between Compass and CDH's housekeeping staff
About 75 Cowichan health-care workers are in a strike position strike as negotiations drag with employee Compass Group, their union said Friday.
That 98% strike mandate by Health Employees' Union was tallied during a vote by island and mainland members, HEU's Neil Monckton said.
Any action would affect housekeeping workers at Cowichan District Hospital facilities, including several members at Cairnsmore Lodge, he told the News Leader Pictorial.
HEU's contact with Compass expired on Sept. 30 , 2012.
The crux of the talks surrounds wage parity for Compass' HEU workers with an uplift of about $1 hourly recently reached between HEU members and firms Sodexo and Aramark.
"Off the table is an offer of 10 cents and hour more," hes aid.
"These folks haven't had a wage increase for at a least a year; they prefer to take action."
Island HEU members doing dietary and housekeeping work earn about $14.75 an hour, but the living wage is about $18 to $19 for a family of four, noted Monckton.
Sodexo (France) and Aramark (U.S.) have settled with HEU workers on the mainland. "They got a $1 an hour over four years (contract) and other improvements," he noted.
Compass agents were unavailable for comment by press time while HEU and the employers continued talks about essential-service levels.
"We're very close. Once we do that, we'll be in the position take strike action," Monckton said of a potential walkout requiring 72-hours notice to employers.
He noted the HEU workers were part of some 8,000 fired about 10 years ago during B.C.'s health-care privatization programs.
"Some were hired back at about half their wage level; they're still below what they were 10 years ago."
With less staff, working conditions in medical settings — where norwalk and MRSA virus contamination of staff and patients — is chronic concerns HEU brass, he signalled.
"Levels of staffing have dropped and that's really a challenge," he said, adding some problems getting proper cleaning materials and supplies for housekeepers.
Multinationals Aramark, Acciona, Sodexo, Compass, and Compass' subsidiary Marquise,
employ more than 4,400 dietary and housekeeping workers in health care throughout B.C.
The four companies posted global profits of of more than $3 billion in their past year of reported earnings, an HEU release states.