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The Vancouver Island Health Authority took the first step towards privatizing food services in the Capital region even though the expected savings would amount to less than one-quarter of one per cent of the authority’s operating budget, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

Food service staff learned earlier today that the health authority is preparing a request for proposals from private corporations for food production and distribution.

HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says the predicted savings from the privatization scheme are $2.6 million - less than 0.25 per cent of the health authority’s $1.1 billion operating budget. “These minimal savings will be far outweighed by the cost of losing the public’s investment in skilled, experienced food service workers,” says Allnutt. “Not to mention the loss of accountability for service levels and added red tape and bureaucracy at the health authority in order to monitor contract compliance.

“Hospital food services are critical to safe patient care,” adds Allnutt. “We’re concerned that private contractors paying low wages mean high staff turnover. And in health care settings, where special diets must be prepared and delivered to the right patient, there’s little room for mistakes.”

Allnutt says his union is making every effort to get health employers and government engaged in discussions on how to avoid lay-offs for thousands of B.C. health workers.