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Food service workers get pink slips

Nearly 60 workers were laid off this week as a result of the latest branch of health services to be privatized - Food Services.

Nearly 60 workers were laid off this week as a result of the latest branch of health services to be privatized - Food Services.

"Twenty-eight dietary workers at the hospital and about the same number at Kiwanis and Shorncliffe were given their pink slips," said Pam Duffy of the Hospital Employees Union.

The dietary workers were expecting their pink slips this week because the announcement to privatize their department came over a month ago.

"But larger centers like Vancouver General Hospital got their notices first," said Duffy.

She noted the general feeling of despair of health workers on the Coast.

"It's really hard. The hospital has been at 115 per cent capacity the last few months so there has been an increased workload and the staff knew that they were going to be laid off soon so it makes you wonder how they keep going," said Duffy.

She also mentioned the problems arising from the previously privatized housekeeping department.

Duffy thinks staff that are under contract from the private cleaning company are doing their best, but said, "there's only so much they can do with less staff."

Sodexho, a U.S. company, now holds the tender for providing food services to the hospital and care homes.

Bruce Rozenhart, a community relations' person with Sodexho, said the company also plans to change staffing levels in the near future.

"There will probably be a slight reduction in staffing," said Rozenhart.

However, he said he expects quality of food provided to be maintained or increased.

"Quality is our driving force. We need to have high standards to keep our customers happy," he said.

He expects there will be some menu changes in the cafeteria and for patients, "depending on their nutritional needs."

He also said the company will perform customer satisfaction surveys periodically and notes Sodexho has experience providing food services to hospitals throughout the U.S.

In other health news this week, a new mediator was appointed to assist in negotiations with the Facilities Subsector collective agreement. Stephen Rinfret of Vancouver is the newly appointed mediator.

The current provincial agreement for the Facilities Subsector expired on March 31 and covers approximately 41,000 workers, including nursing assistants such as care aides and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), food service workers, cooks, housekeeping aides and cleaners and laundry workers.

Louise Simard, President and CEO of the Health Employers Association of B.C. said health administrators are pleased with the new appointment and are hopeful they will be able to "achieve a collective agreement that respects the rights of employees and employers, and also ensures better access to patient care and services."