Reprieve on hospital kitchens

Unions have succeeded in securing a one-month delay in the decision on whether to outsource southern hospital kitchens.

It allows more time to form a counterproposal to that of food giant Compass Group, in a bid to prevent the Southern District Health Board privatising hospital kitchens in Dunedin and Invercargill.

The Service and Food Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Workers' Union formed a delegation to yesterday's health board meeting in Dunedin to make the case.

A few hours later, the board announced it was granting the extra time.

It meant a final decision would now be made at the board's May 7 meeting, rather than next month.

The unions said they did not have enough financial information to create a counter proposal to that of Compass.

The multinational claims it can save the board $7 million over the 15-year contract, and the unions have been trying to find out exactly how those savings would be made.

Amalgamated Workers' Union representative Iain Lourie told the board his members were feeling frustrated and angry about the outsourcing proposal.

''They feel they are cattle, just livestock to be traded off,'' he said.

SFWU organiser Anna Huffstutler, of Southland, told board members the union needed sound financial information to put together a robust alternative proposal.

One of the issues had been agreeing on who would independently review Compass' business case.

The board has also instructed senior management to give unions the necessary information ''to the maximum degree commercially possible''.

The Public Service Association was supposed to have been part of the delegation, but sent an apology.

Late last year, the health board decided in principle to go ahead with privatisation, but put off a final decision to allow more consideration of the matter.

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