July 23, 2020 10.43 am This story is over 40 months old

Redundancies loom for catering staff at Lincolnshire hospitals

Facilities at hospitals had no trade during the COVID-19 lockdown

The company that runs food and drink shops at hospital sites in Lincoln, Boston and Grantham said redundancies are “unfortunately inevitable”.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust contracted CH&Co Catering Group to run the food and drink outlets and shops at its hospital sites since February 2018.

CH&Co said its trade “all but reduced to zero” during the coronavirus lockdown and a consultation process is now ongoing. Some staff were furloughed in April but could now face losing their jobs completely.

The number of redundancies is not yet known and ULHT said any employment issues are a matter for the commercial company.

Unison says the alleged claims by CH&Co of financial hardship are a “sham and don’t hold up to scrutiny”.

A CH&CO spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with comments made by Unison. It has been fully aware and cooperative in the process with United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

“CH&CO operates facilities for visitors and therefore during lockdown, in common with our entire business, trade has all but reduced to zero. 

“We’ve been doing all we can to minimise the impact on our teams, including the exec team taking pay freezes and managers taking pay reductions.

“However, the impact of the pandemic on the entire hospitality industry means that redundancies are unfortunately inevitable.

“The consultation process remains ongoing and we are doing all we can to retain as many colleagues as possible.”

Martin Rayson, Director of HR and Organisational Development at ULHT, said: “We are of course saddened to hear that some of the CH&Co staff working on our sites, who may previously have been employed by ULHT, may be affected by the downturn in sales that CH&Co will have experienced through COVID-19.”

‘Plunged into uncertainty’

Elliot Dean, UNISON East Midlands regional organiser, said: “Year after year, CH&CO Catering group has made millions of pounds in profit on the back of the hard work of its staff.

“Despite being able to carry on its business throughout the pandemic in hospitals throughout the county, it’s now trying to cut staffing costs to maximise profits.

“The company chose to furlough some staff in April but they only paid staff 80% of their normal take-home pay, for which it was able to claim all the money from the government.

“Staff have now been plunged into uncertainty after being taken by surprise by the redundancies.

“But there’ll be a continuing need for these staff to work in the hospitals’ catering outlets and shops, now and into the future.

“The company must withdraw these damaging proposals immediately and work with UNISON to find a way forward.”