A potential strike affecting Lions Gate Hospital and care homes on the North Shore has been narrowly avoided.
More than 200 Hospital Employees' Union members who work in housekeeping and dietary jobs have reached a contract agreement with the private companies that the province contracts.
Employees of Aramark had voted 97-per cent in favour of a strike last week after a year of negotiations showed no progress.
"As we were doing that,. .. Aramark contacted us and we agreed to go back to the bargaining table Monday and Tuesday with the mediator ready," said Bonnie Pearson HEU secretary-business manager. "I think they realized the members were resolved that they wanted to see progress and they needed to put a fair and reasonable solution on the table."
Under the new agreement, the employees, who work at Kiwanis Care Centre, Lions Gate Hospital, Margaret Fulton Centre and Cedarview Lodge, will get a $1-per hour raise over a four year agreement and "significant' improvements in health and welfare plans, Pearson said.
The union reached a similar deal with Frenchbased contractor Sodexo on Sept. 15, which also employees custodial and kitchen workers at North Shore care facilities, last week.
While Pearson is "cautiously optimistic" that employees will ratify the deal this week, their wages and benefits are still below 2004 levels when the province privatized the work, resulting in wages been slashed from an average of $18 per hour down to roughly $9. By the end of this contract, the hourly wage will be $16.
"Obviously, we are still well below the living wage we would like to be at and that we were at before people were privatized," Pearson said. "It's a lesson in what happens when contracting out workers, isn't it?"
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