Kitchen workers under pressure

Dunedin Hospital kitchen workers are being run "ragged'' trying to make the Compass Group food system work, while being criticised by disgruntled patients and chasing the multinational over wage errors, a union says.

Patients are complaining about the food and some constantly question staff about how the meals are sourced, E tu organiser Anna Huffstutler told the Otago Daily Times.

‘‘To be quite honest, they're running themselves ragged,'' she said.

Seven workers lost their jobs late last year after the company took over the kitchens in a 15-year outsourcing deal that was opposed by many members of the public.

Food preparation now mostly involved reheating rather than cooking from scratch, but the workload was significant, and the new system was taking a long time to settle down.

New menu and supplier ordering systems had been introduced, staff roles had changed and there were more menu choices at each meal. In most cases, staff did not know where the food was from.

"It's coming from all over.''

Workers did not consider the meals appetising, she said.

They had to ‘‘constantly'' scrutinise their pay for errors - something they never had to do when employed by the Southern District Health Board.

"They [used to be] so proud. They were public servants and they were really proud of the food they cooked ... to not be able to maintain the kitchen to the standard it used to be is really frustrating, and it's put a huge amount of stress on [workers],'' Ms Huffstutler said.

The Compass food model had been in place in Dunedin since February, and since January at Southland Hospital, where workers were also under pressure.

Compass released a statement about the union's concerns.

"In response to comments attributed to the E tu union, we take any concerns raised by a union or staff member seriously and, in all cases, we engage directly with those providing feedback and follow the agreed processes with the unions and outlined in employment contracts.

"The new food model has now been in place in Dunedin Hospital since 10 February and surveys show that the majority of patients are satisfied with the new meals and menu choices.

"The pictures of meals recently posted on social media do not reflect patient food quality,'' the statement said.

Dunedin Hospital meals have been in the spotlight over the past couple of weeks after patients started posting photos of the food on social media.

Last week, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman declared the food ‘‘excellent'' after dining at Dunedin Hospital.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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