Hospital catering and parking price fury

By Dave GooderhamMORALE at a hospital has taken a further dent after a fifth of staff signed a petition in protest against a hike in catering and car parking charges.

By Dave Gooderham

MORALE at a hospital has taken a further dent after a fifth of staff signed a petition in protest against a hike in catering and car parking charges.

Workers have said they will take their case to the Government if bosses at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds continue to ignore their concerns.

The petition, which was signed by more than 200 people and handed to management yesterday, was the brainchild of kitchen porter Terry Marshall, who said staff were getting fed up of having to fork out more money.

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He added: “The petition is representative of the whole hospital - doctors and nurses have also put their name to it.

“The canteen is a very important place for all the staff as they can't just walk into town to eat. We have no real choice but to eat there and the hospital management know that - and that is why they put up the prices.

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“They already make a big profit on catering, so they shouldn't need to keep putting it up. If you park here and then have a meal, you end up with less money than we had last year.

“If the hospital doesn't do anything about our concerns, I am going to go straight to the Home Secretary.”

Mr Marshall claimed the canteen prices had been increased in line with various restaurants in Bury St Edmunds and described that as “outrageous”.

Catering assistant Margaret Mason added: “Our rise has gone before it even goes into the pay packet.

“We were not asked about the rises in catering and car parking at all. In terms of catering, the girls on the till are getting a lot of stick from staff and morale has just hit rock bottom.”

Unison branch chairman, Graham Kendall, said: “The increase in catering prices has also caused a lot of concern.

“We were told they were increased to be in line with current prices of food outside the hospital, but staff are not happy with it at all.

“We hope something can be done, but my gut reaction is that the petition will not change anything. Some staff are so upset that a lot of people have turned away from going up to the canteen.

“The management seem to be finding any way to cut costs at the expense of staff who feel they are beginning to prop up the hospital.”

Last month staff reacted angrily after claiming the rise in car parking fees would virtually wipe out their 3% annual pay rise.

A hospital spokesman confirmed there had been a 6% increase in canteen costs, but said the food was still much cheaper than anywhere else in town.

He added: “Charges for food for the staff are extremely good value. There was a 6% increase from June 1, but we are only talking about 6% on very small sums of money and it only covers the costs of making the food.”

The spokesman said the rise in car parking fees was to help pay for an additional 200 vehicle spaces at the hospital.

“If people have an alternative and practical way of getting to work, whether it be cycling, getting the bus or walking, we would encourage them to do so,” he added.

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