Chef: CLT staff 'angry and rejected' by sale proposal

Rosebank Lodge Balclutha breakfast chef Theresa Tomkinson says she and other staff have been left...
Rosebank Lodge Balclutha breakfast chef Theresa Tomkinson says she and other staff have been left feeling "degraded and helpless" by the lack of communication from the trust about the possible sale of the business. Photo: Richard Davison
A Balclutha chef has spoken of "anger and helplessness" among Clutha Licensing Trust (CLT) staff, as a proposal to sell its businesses takes another step forward.

The Otago Daily Times spoke to Rosebank Lodge Balclutha breakfast chef Theresa Tomkinson yesterday, after public submissions on the proposal closed on Monday night.

Ms Tomkinson said she and several fellow employees were concerned about the openness of the process, which began at the start of August.

Established in 1955, CLT owns and operates five hotels and one liquor store in Clinton, Balclutha, Owaka and Milton, and employs about 80 staff.

Ms Tomkinson, who has worked at several of those businesses during the past six years, said staff she had spoken to since CLT announced its proposal to sell up and form a community trust with the proceeds were feeling "angry and rejected".

"We've just been shut down and not listened to. About 25 staff attended the recent AGM to listen, and discuss their concerns, and the president [Steve Morris] told us there would be no discussion. It only lasted six minutes."

A two-week staff consultation process ended on August 17, but received only minimal response, something Ms Tomkinson attributed to employees feeling "degraded and helpless".

Although she had submitted to both the staff and public consultations, Ms Tomkinson said she lacked confidence the board of trustees was listening to concerns raised, and was worried decisions were being made "behind closed doors".

"When are we going to see the results of those processes? The lack of communication from the people actually running the trust is shocking. I just felt it was time somebody stood up and spoke out."

The mother-of-one said she was not afraid of losing her job for speaking publicly.

"About half the people I know are already looking for other jobs. It's a shame because it's a great place to work with amazing people, but there's just too much uncertainty at the moment."

Trust president Steve Morris said he was encouraged by a "reasonable" level of community engagement during the recent process.

"At a glance, we've got some good support for the proposal [to divest], and limited support for the status quo. But the board now needs to take some time to consider all the feedback we've received and share that with the public before making any decisions."

He said the trust was also investigating the possibility of retaining control of its gaming business after any sale of its properties.

He and the board remained "mindful" of the effect of the current process on staff, but rejected Ms Tomkinson's claims of a lack of communication.

"All stakeholders, including staff, have had a fair chance to have their say. There are no `for sale' signs up, and it remains business as usual."

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