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Brighton hospital staff threaten to walk out over potential job losses
Hundreds of hospital workers could stage a walk out next month in a row over potential job losses.
Ballot papers are expected to be sent out just after Christmas to catering, cleaning, portering and maintenance workers at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Private company Sodexo took over the contract for providing the non-clinical services on December 1.
Sodexo has launched a 30-day consultation with staff as part of changes to its workforce.
The GMB union says this could lead to the loss of up to 96 jobs as well as changes to rotas and working hours which could force more employees to leave.
It is calling for the consultation to be extended to 90 days and is balloting its 300 members who work for Sodexo.
If members vote for industrial action, a strike could take place by as early as the middle of January.
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “Sodexo’s decision to engage in redundancy consultations is devastating news for services and staff, particularly over the Christmas period.
“We are calling on Sodexo to withdraw their 30 day consultation and to come back to the table for tripartite discussions with GMB and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust to see if a resolution to this situation can be found.”
Sodexo’s four year contract, worth £15million a year, is one of the largest of its kind issued this year.
If strike action does go ahead, the trust will be expecting Sodexo to provide enough cover.
Services that could potentially be disrupted include catering, cleaning and collecting blood samples.
A Sodexo spokesman said: “We can confirm that we are in consultation with union representatives following a staffing review.
“No definite decisions have been made and none will be made until that consultation is completed, but our intention is to explore every option available to minimise any 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.
“We understand that the GMB has expressed concern that patient safety will be put at risk, however, patient safety is our number one priority and we are working hard to ensure that services are not only maintained but improved.”
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