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Contract change leaves some workers out

Almost 1000 workers impacted at Vancouver Coastal Health and extended care facilities

Former employees have been “snubbed” by Compass, Vancouver Coastal Health’s new cleaning contractor—this according to Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons.

Aramark lost the bid for its housekeeping contract with Vancouver Coastal Health against Compass Group Canada this February, announcing approximately 935 people would be laid off between August 9 and September 22. In Powell River, the change affects approximately 34 members of cleaning staff across facilities at Willingdon Creek Village, Evergreen Extended Care Unit and Powell River General Hospital.

“In Gibsons, Sechelt and Powell River a full 25 per cent of employees were not rehired,” said Simons. “It is particularly distressing to these workers, who were earning a living wage, to be snubbed in their effort to keep their jobs.”

According to figures provided by Compass, in Powell River of the 34 former Aramark employees who applied, 26 were offered positions, leaving eight individuals out of work.

Simons said, although he requested further information during a telephone conference with Compass, he was told individuals were not hired either, “because some had failed to submit immunization records or an up-to-date criminal record check, or that they failed to list references.”

In a written response to question from the Peak, Saira Husain, corporate communications manager at Crothall, a division of the Compass Group, wrote: “Our goal was to hire as many of the Aramark employees as possible.”

Asked why some were not rehired, she wrote: “This isn’t a reflection on these people as individuals, but a reflection of the change in job expectations, new job requirements and new ways we will work together in the future.”

“Compass has been predictably vague with respect to that whole question of rehiring workers from Aramark,” said Jennifer Whiteside, spokesperson for the Hospital Employees Union. “It’s as though these workers don’t matter to the health authority or the company.”

Whiteside explained that contract changes like this have become more common since 2002 with the passing of the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, known as Bill 29, which opened the door to contract services within regional health authorities.

“In many situations the terms and conditions under which they have been hired have been changed,” said Whiteside. “Either the conditions under which they have been hired have been changed, the total number of hours they work in a week has been changed or the location where they work has been changed.”

At the centre of the issue is Vancouver Coastal Health. “We know what we do best, which is provide health care,” said Anna Marie D’Angelo, senior media relations officer, Vancouver Coastal Health. “We contract out to experts who do what they do best, which includes food services, laundry and housekeeping.

“When a contract goes from one organization to another, there is no guarantee because these are not our employees so we can’t say that [Compass] has to hire employees from one company to another,” she said. “We are going to this new contract because we believe that it’s going to provide better service for our patients.”

As of press time the Peak had received no comment from Aramark about the layoffs.

Simons said he has written a letter on this matter to Shirley Bond, minister of jobs, tourism and skills training and responsible for labour, and Terry Lake, minister of health.