More hospital meal reheating tipped

Dunedin Hospital's cooks will focus on food ''regeneration'' - rather than cooking fresh meals for patients - after their job numbers are cut, according to a proposal Compass Group tried to keep under wraps.

The multinational took over Southern District Health Board kitchens last month, and has started the process of cutting jobs to prepare for introducing its own food system. This will include trucking meals from Auckland to the South.

The head chef position, held by Kostya Cherkun, will be scrapped.

''The proposed food service model would require significantly less cooking,'' the document released to staff says.

''As such it is proposed that there would be a reduced requirement for cooks.

''The cooks' roles and duties would change focus to one of regeneration (reheating) and portioning of pre prepared products.''

The Public Service Association told the Otago Daily Times the document did not meet basic requirements such as stating how many jobs will go, redundancy details, and the logistics of the new food system.

Unions are trying to deduce the extent of the job losses by studying an example daily roster released by Compass.

The roster shows two cooks rostered on each day in Dunedin, on different shifts. Unions were told to keep the document secret. Compass reportedly also told the PSA it had not included redundancy details as it did not want to focus on negative issues.

PSA organiser Julie Morton said if Compass did not clarify matters by tomorrow, she would contact the union's lawyers and press for legal action.

She took issue with the demeanour of company representatives at staff meetings last week.

''They were smiling like it's some kind of joyous event.''

The change proposal had serious flaws.

''The document, for instance, doesn't mention anything about severance, and that is really unusual, because that is the end result potentially for a lot of people when their jobs are disestablished.''

Ms Morton said the document talked about redeployment within the health board, which appeared to be a ''bizarre'' attempt to avoid paying redundancies, she said.

Some staff had worked in Dunedin Hospital's kitchen for up to 50 years, and deserved to be treated with respect and directness.

''It's like they're trying to hide the bad stuff by just not talking about it.''

Though Mr Cherkun was not one of her union members, Ms Morton was sad to see the kitchen lose its talented head chef.

''He's a really nice man, and sometimes those head chef guys aren't all that pleasant.

''He does make good food. The food was really good for a hospital.''

Compass needed to be clearer about the nature of the food components that would turn up, because otherwise ''how are we able to tell how many people might need to heat that stuff and dish it out''?

Among her members, who work in administration and supervision, job losses would be much higher than 20%, she said.

It appeared the company was setting up a lot of part time work rather than viable full time jobs, Ms Morton said. Compass reiterated to the ODT last week that it would cut no more than 20% of the 98 full time equivalent food service jobs (including Southland).

''Final numbers will only be known once consultation is complete and all staff and unions have been informed of any subsequent changes,'' a company spokeswoman said.

''No change is able to take place, nor can any other specifics be confirmed until this consultation is completed.

This includes details on hours of work for each position and the final number of full time equivalents.

''Staff have until 20 November to provide feedback on the proposal and numerous forums for discussion are planned before then.''

Professional support was available for staff who needed it, the Compass spokeswoman said.

''Numerous options for staff to provide feedback and also access any support they need during this time are provided, including team and small group meetings and individuals confidentially speaking directly with the site operational management team.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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