MORE than 90 “cranky” Health Services Union (HSU) NSW members walked off the job yesterday to protest upcoming job losses at the Orange Linen Service.
Around 49 HSU members from the Orange Linen Service and 50 HSU members from the Illawarra Linen Service stopped work for an hour as part of an ongoing campaign to protest changes to the Orange service.
The changes will see all of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick’s linen, around 32 tonnes which is currently laundered by Orange Linen Service, sent to similar services in Paramatta and Newcastle to save on transport costs.
HealthShare NSW, a division of NSW Health, has pledged to help redeploy around 45 staff into vacant positions within other HealthShare services in Orange and the western NSW region.
HSU NSW acting divisional manager Jodie Cowdrey said HSU staff and members feared Orange Linen Service would eventually be closed down and sold off to one of a number of private entities which are “waiting in the wings”.
“[Workers] are cranky, upset and angry, and worried that there’ll be no jobs for them,” Ms Cowdrey said.
Ms Cowdrey said despite being told new jobs would be found for them, staff were concerned they’d be offered jobs that didn’t suit them or may require them to work outside of Orange, particularly as the closest HealthShare linen service to Orange is in Parramatta.
“If they can’t find a job, and don’t want to travel they might have to take a redundancy,” Ms Cowdrey said.
Ms Cowdrey said while a redundancy might suit people who are close to retirement age, for other people redundancy money “only lasts for so long”.
“Unemployment rates are also higher for people in rural areas,” she said.
Ms Cowdrey said HSU NSW planned to roll out a campaign protesting the changes to Orange Linen Service and she wouldn’t be surprised if the dispute made its way to the Industrial Relations Commission.
“At the end of the day if we have to fight to help keep the jobs, that’s what we’ll do,” Ms Cowdrey said.
HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said member for Orange Andrew Gee had to take urgent action.
“Orange workers deserve better and they have every right to stand up for themselves,” Mr Hayes said.
“The onus is now on Mr Gee to front his colleagues in Macquarie Street and ensure that hard-working members of his community are not sacrificed.
“As the member for Orange, Mr Gee cannot possibly justify allowing the lives of 45 locals and their families to be battered, while a sector of the local economy is torn up and transported to Sydney.
“Orange has a terrific reputation for providing quality linen services.
“We will not stand idly by and allow these Orange workers, who have done a great job for many years, to be thrown on the scrap heap. “