Vitalité makes 11th-hour pitch to avoid privatization – New Brunswick

In a last-ditch effort to protect its food and cleaning services from privatization, the Vitalité Health Network says it has achieved more savings, with fewer lost jobs, than would happen under Sodexo, the company the province wants to hire.

Through attrition, reorganization and avoiding many of Sodexo’s startup costs, savings of $1.7 million could be realized over and above Sodexo’s expected first-year performance, says a financial report that evaluated changes made in the past year at Vitalité.

Vitalité’s CEO and president Gilles Lanteigne said that number is expected to grow to $3.4 million over 10 years.

“And we do it without massive layoffs,” he said.

Sodexo, a France-based food services giant, is on the cusp of finalizing a contract with the New Brunswick government to manage cleaning, portering and food services across the province’s hospitals.

Communications officer Sarah Williams says the contract with Sodexo has been drafted and should be finalized “in three to six months.”

In a New Brunswick Health Council voluntary survey last year, only 17.8 per cent of respondents rated Horizon Health Network’s food services as excellent or very good, and 23 per cent said the same of Vitalité’s.

Vitalité, which has actively resisted privatization, believes there is a “window of opportunity” to convince the province the network’s proposal to save money is better than Sodexo’s, said Lanteigne.

CBC News asked the anglophone-administered Horizon if it could provide any documents to illustrate potential savings under Sodexo or provide anyone to speak to the network’s apparent decision not to pursue its own savings program.

There was no answer, and the next day, when CBC News asked Horizon for a short telephone interview with CEO Karen McGrath, the request was declined.

Vitalité’s financial report

Vitalité’s financial report said Sodexo’s plan would cost $610,000 in severance packages.

The New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions is bracing to lose 280 jobs under Sodexo, including 80 within Vitalité.

But Vitalité said it has already cut 16 full-time equivalents, or FTEs, since March 31, all by attrition and reorganization and will continue to do so, for the next three years until 52.5 FTEs are gone.  

The health authority also expects to achieve further savings by avoiding Sodexo’s startup costs, including a $437,000 investment in a call centre.

Vitalité says it can also avoid more than $2 million in fees for Sodexo’s corporate office.

Both proposals would likely see the closure of hospital cafeterias at Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, Saint-Quentin, Grand Falls, Campbellton, Caraquet and Lamèque.

Vitalité said it would continue to serve lunch at the Tracadie cafeteria, whereas Sodexo is expected to close it, altogether.

Overall, Lanteigne said the Vitalité pitch is a better solution for his organization because it will reduce workplace disruption while improving service quality.

According to the report,…

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