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Former Middlemore cooks 'fed up' with long wait for gratuity pay

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Former Middlemore Hospital cooks and menu processors are fed up with the long wait for tens of thousands of dollars in gratuity payments they’re owed after they lost their jobs.

Fourteen highly skilled women were made redundant last July after Compass, which provides food services for Counties Manukau DHB, introduced a new model based on pre-prepared foods and collecting menu choices directly from patients electronically.

The women, who had worked at Middlemore since the 1970s and 80s, included Tearoa "Mama" Potoru, who used to prepare up to 600 freshly cooked Meals on Wheels each day. "I was very disappointed when they changed from fresh food. I worry about the old people in the community and what they are getting to eat," Mama says. Mama was a key figure on the picket line during a lock-out by Spotless, the previous food contractor, in 2007; Compass subsequently was awarded the contract. E tū Industry Co-ordinator, Jill Ovens, says the women got their redundancy pay, but 10 of them are still waiting for retiring gratuities worth tens of thousands of dollars.

"The payments which are included in their employment Agreements are worth around $30,000 each," she says, "but neither the DHB nor Compass have accepted liability."

Ms Ovens says Compass rejected the Union’s claim last year and E tÅ« took legal action.

There was mediation in April, and E tÅ« expected Compass’s lawyers to come back with an offer within a week.

But she says, "Here we are more than two months later and their lawyer told us this week they’re still working through the issues.

"Enough is enough. These women spent their whole working life cooking food for the patients at Middlemore and they deserve to be paid their full entitlement."

Says Mama: "We are sick of being stuffed around."

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