Food service workers to sign historic contract

Union contract guarantees better wages and increased health benefits for 160 workers

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SFU workers are seen at SFU holding signs that read “Living Wage Now!” There are 11 people in the photo, most holding signs. One holds a megaphone and appears to be speaking.

By: Chloë Arneson, News Writer

Over the next three years, some SFU food service workers are expected to see up to a 17% increase in wages. This is the largest increase for food service workers in SFU’s history

In their press release, UNITE HERE Local 40 — BC’s hospitality workers union — stated that after pushing for a living wage and rallying at SFU, the union’s bargaining committee was able to achieve a collective agreement with Compass Group. 

In addition to wage increases, workers can expect better health benefits and recall protections. Recall protection promises during emergencies such as COVID-19-related shutdowns or natural disasters, workers will not lose their seniority. 

SFU hires all food service workers through Compass Group, a third-party company. This means workers must bring their concerns to this external company instead of the university. 

In an interview with The Peak, Stephanie Fung, communications organizer for UNITE HERE Local 40, noted the health benefits from the new contract. “Physiotherapy has doubled to $500 a year, massage therapy [has] tripled to $300 a year, and dental has increased from $1,500 to $2,000 a year,” she said.  

She elaborated on the struggles that SFU’s food service workers face due to COVID-19. “During the pandemic, workers were struggling with increased workloads, trying to ensure that the community’s health and safety was protected while they were serving meals to the community [ . . . ] Workers are feeling exhausted at the end of the day and feel like they’re not being treated with respect by their company,” Fung said. 

Fung said many of the workers are women of colour who have served the community for decades. The Peak had previously reported, “there is no data regarding the diversity of these workers, since they are not direct employees of the university.”

The focus of the campaign was to provide food service workers with a living wage. They had planned a protest in February of 2021 which was cancelled when Compass agreed to renegotiate their contract. 

According to the press release, “costs of living are soaring in Burnaby and Vancouver.” Fung explained, “A living wage [will] make a tremendous difference for food service workers.” 

The minimum wage in BC is currently $15.20 whereas the living wage in Metro Vancouver was $20.52 per hour in 2021. “Other companies and workers are noticing this [ . . . ] and it gives us more fuel to rise up and demand what we deserve,” Fung noted. “There are many other hospitality workers across the province who have been working through the pandemic [with] increased workloads and want job security during this time.

“It’s time they get what they deserve for all the hard work they’ve done,” said Fung.

UNITE HERE Local 40 is continuing to advocate for SFU’s food service workers. They’re asking for increased community benefits, including access to university facilities, such as campus libraries. Other employees directly hired by SFU already have these benefits. 

According to Fung, Compass Group “has agreed to meet within 45 days” of the announcement “to discuss expansion of access to university facilities for workers. 

“[It’s] a good sign that there will be conversations moving ahead,” said Fung. 

For more information or updates on their campaign, visit UNITE HERE Local 40’s website.