Southern hospital kitchen workers have been given an extra month to counter an outsourcing proposal.
Union representatives this morning asked the Southern District Health Board (DHB) for an extension to the consultation period on a plan to outsource the hospital kitchens in Dunedin and Invercargill to a commercial operator, Compass Group.
Under the plan, the staff would be transferred to the new operator, though job cuts could follow.
The board said it could not say how many staff would be shed in the changeover, but the change should save about $800,000 a year.
The Southland organiser of the Service and Food Workers Union, Anna Huffstutler, said the members felt the DHB was effectively sacking them.
"You know a lot of them, especially in Otago and Dunedin, they've never been contracted out, so the service has always been in-house, so there is a feeling of, you know, not being important to the DHB as far as their work and their commitment goes to the hospital."
Submissions were due by next Thursday.
A delegation from the Service and Food Workers Union and Amalgamated Workers Union appeared today at a meeting of the board and asked for an extra four weeks to respond.
The union representatives said they wanted to propose alternative changes, but the DHB had been slow in providing the financial data they need.
Iain Lourie of the Amalgamated Workers Union said their members were frustrated by the outsourcing process and felt like cattle being traded off.
The Southern DHB board decided to grant the extension, and asked its management to help the unions get as much information as possible to prepare their response.