Food service and hospitality workers in the healthcare industry

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December 24, 2020

Among the many jobs that keep our economy and support systems moving every day are many workers who, too often, go overlooked.

Compass Group Extendicare Brampton membersThis is the case even with healthcare where there are many different jobs: including some you may not think of when considering jobs in the industry. But it takes many dedicated people to care for our loved ones and provide services to those visiting the facilities as well.

UFCW Local 175 is proud to support all kinds of workers throughout the healthcare industry. We continue to fight to make permanent, substantial monetary improvements and increase the overall support for every healthcare worker.

Not only do members of UFCW Local 175 work as Nurses and PSWs – but they also work as hospitality and dietary services workers, too.

Hospitality and dietary services workers in healthcare facilities are behind the scenes:

  • Making sure clients and patients receive good food;
  • Ensuring the kitchens and dining areas are clean, and;
  • Getting the right meals to the right people.
Dolly Persaud, Union Steward at Compass Group Extendicare Brampton

Dolly Persaud: Steward at Compass Group Extendicare Brampton

“Myself and co-workers have worked endlessly as a team to make sure the residents at our home are well taken care of. Through all the trials that we faced, our number one priority was and is the residents. We try our utmost best to stay safe because if we are safe, the residents will be also. So, thumbs up to the staff and also to the residents who’ve shown tremendous courage and strength through all this.” Dolly P.

Others in this industry also work at restaurants and familiar coffee shop chains in hospitals too. Many of these workers are hired by a third party contracted by healthcare facilities.

This is true, for example, of the employees of Compass Group Canada who are members of UFCW Local 175. Compass Group employees can be found working at the Tim Hortons and Second Cup in some hospitals, and in the kitchens and dining rooms of long-term and retirement care homes.

Compass Group workers at Southlake Reginal Health Centre

These members work as general help and dietary aides, which can include:

  • Kitchen staff,
  • Dish washers,
  • Cleaning and sanitation staff,
  • Dietary aides,
  • Dining room attendants, and;
  • Some also work as cooks in those kitchens.

These members take great pride in their work, and their dedication to the safety and well-being of every resident and patient shows.

Some of these workers didn’t qualify for the government’s healthcare premium, and those who did waited months for it to appear on their paycheques because of the red tape involved in having employers apply for, receive, and distribute the money. Many Nurses and PSWs waited months for their premiums, too.

Shahab Adem is a Union Steward and Cook working for Compass Group at Hawthorn Woods Care Community, a long-term care home in Brampton.

Hawthorn Woods has been in an official COVID-19 outbreak status since October 31.

Shahab is a Steward for the Compass Group employees who work in the kitchen and the dining areas of the Home. “It was a nice place to work until the pandemic,” said Shahab, who enjoys working with his co-workers and interacting with the residents.

But since the pandemic began, Shahab has zero contact with the residents and is confined – as are most kitchen employees – primarily to the kitchen. Those that enter the dining areas have to be careful not to touch any other surfaces in between and must sanitize their hands and change gloves when leaving or returning to the kitchen.

“It’s very scary. I became a Steward to help my co-workers and make sure they understand their rights – to fight for them,” explained Shahab.

“My responsibilities as a Steward and worker have changed a lot since this began. Every day, I am communicating with my co-workers to talk about their concerns and fears, and to make sure they understand safety procedures and that they are wearing their PPE. I am in constant contact with our Union Rep by phone and email as well because visitors cannot enter the Home right now.”

The PPE that Shahab and other Compass Group employees wear now for a regular shift includes a mask, goggles, and gloves. In addition, the cleaning and disinfecting procedures have of course been stepped up in every part of the kitchen and dining areas. Despite all of these protections, a number of Compass Group employees at the Home have contracted COVID-19.

Shahab calls the provincial government’s response to the pandemic the worst. “It’s clear that the government doesn’t care about the residents or employees,” said Shahab.

“They’ve left these Homes understaffed for years and they’ve never stepped up to really provide any help.” Shahab also expressed disappointment in the level of communication coming from the Home as well.

“All of my co-workers are scared but I’m proud of them for continuing to come to work and for their dedication to caring for these residents,” said Shahab.

Shahab Adem - Union Steward Compass Group Hawthorn Woods

Shahab Adem: Union Steward at Compass Group Hawthorn Woods

Compass Group member from Kingston Hospital

The Union continues to push for the government to recognize that ALL healthcare workers need substantial and immediate wage increases and support.

Proper funding and support means that facilities don’t have any excuses when it comes to hiring enough workers to carry out the important work of healthcare, and the workers they do hire are paid well and benefit from good working conditions including excellent health and safety protections.

The Union also continues to push employers to do the right thing and pay pandemic premiums to workers not covered by the government’s plan.

Send a letter to your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP): Tell them increases should be made permanent and apply to all health care workers throughout the sector. Read more and hit send on a letter to your MPP here!

Find out why Health Care workers benefit from belonging to our Union!

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