Aramark workers at GM Place ready for a fight

Local 40 workers, employed by Aramark, drum for a new agreement.

Local 40 workers, employed by Aramark, drum for a new agreement.

About 750 Aramark employees at GM Place,  members of UNITE-HERE Local 40, have scheduled a strike vote March 7.  Job action, if no settlement is reached, could affect not only the Canucks’ play-off schedule but also raise questions about the benefits of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Several hundred of the Aramark workers rallied on Abbott St. outside the stadium before the Feb. 27 game, sending a noisy message about their determination to win decent wages, more respect on the job and a commitment that they will have access to work during the Games. Their ranks were bolstered by Local 40 members from major hotels in the downtown core,  Cara Flight Kitchen and Host concessions workers from YVR and representatives from across the labour movement.

Aramark, a global company which is a regular bidder for Olympic Games food services work, has used volunteers for its concessions in other cities . So far, it will not guarantee 2010 work to  its Vancouver employees,  some of whom have worked at GM Place since it opened.

And in stark contrast to the spacious, airy and immaculate dressing room provided to Canucks players by team owners — fans can view the facility on the Jumbotron at each game — more than 500 Aramark women employees at the stadium must change into their uniforms in a cramped, insecure locker room with space for half that many. The line-up stretches out into the hall.

With an average wage of $12 an hour, many of the Aramark workers earn only about $50 a shift and some pay 25 percent of the total for parking. All this and no access to Olympic work? That’s not what GM Place workers, long-time employees in the hospitality sector, expected or will accept.

Bob Mackin of 24 hours had to call to Philadelphia for an explanation. Aramark spokesperson Kristine Grow said her company is “at the mercy of VANOC.”  Talks continue with a mediator. The contract expired Dec. 11, 2008.

You can see the rally — and the energy of the Aramark workers — here: