Hospital workers are facing a bleak Christmas with news that scores of jobs could be lost.
The private contractor responsible for running non-medical services at Brighton and University Hospitals NHS Trust is consulting on changes to its workforce.
Sodexo only took over the contract for catering, cleaning, maintenance, portering and laundry services at Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on December 1.
More than 100 NHS workers and 524 contract staff not already employed by Sodexo were transferred to the private company with their same terms and conditions.
The GMB union says it understands up to 96 jobs will be lost over the coming months.
In addition, the union says Sodexo will also seek to reduce the contracted hours of the remaining staff and to change job descriptions, roles and rosters.
GMB organiser Gary Palmer said: “Housekeeping at the hospital is as important as front line services and we are greatly concerned that patient safety will be put at risk by the reduction of staffing levels, which Sodexo is proposing to make.
“We will do everything we can through ongoing discussions with Sodexo to protect the jobs of our members, and in doing so, ensure that patients are not put at risk from these ill-conceived planned job cuts.”
The union says the changes will lead not only to compulsory redundancies, but other members of staff will be forced to leave because of cuts to their hours or changes in their shifts that would make it harder to cope with issues like childcare.
A Sodexo spokesman said: “No definite decisions have been made and none will be until that consultation is completed, but our intention is to explore every option available to minimise potential redundancies.
“We appreciate that this is a difficult time with the holiday period approaching, but unfortunately the timing is unavoidable as our contract began this month and must be operating optimally as soon as possible.”
Sodexo’s four year contract, worth £15million a year, is one of the largest of its kind.
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