Laundry staff at Wellington Hospital fear their jobs are on the line as Capital & Coast District Health Board looks at outsourcing the service.
The DHB is yet to decide on the options it put forward during a consultation process with staff this year.
First Union organiser Richie Morris said three options were raised - upgrading the machines and building, building a new laundry, or outsourcing, which would make most of the 40 staff redundant. Consultation papers showed the cheapest option, in the long term, was upgrading the machines and building, he said.
Executive director clinical and corporate support Kelvin Watson said feedback from staff was being reviewed and a report would be presented to the board next month for a decision to be made regarding the "long-term direction".
No preferred supplier had been chosen, he said.
The laundry processes about 130,000 items a week - about 46 tonnes of bedding, towels and other items. It does laundry on behalf of other hospitals, hospices and rest homes in the region.
Since August, 20 per cent of the washing had been sent to Palmerston North "so that if there is an emergency, or if we do have an equipment failure, we can scale up the outsourcing arrangement to cover any periods of equipment downtime", Mr Watson said.
Potentially affected staff and their families would be fully supported by the DHB's employee assistance programme.
New Zealand Nurses' Organisation spokesman Grant Brookes said nurses had concerns about infection control and the ability of an off-site laundry to provide fresh linen at short notice.
"Demand for linen can change very quickly. An outbreak of diarrhoea can send it through the roof at short notice.
"Nurses can't stand it when patients are left in soiled sheets or [they] can't wash them because there's no towels."
Laundry worker and First Union member Geoff Buckley said one person had worked there for four decades and a few others for 20 or so years. "There's people there that have given their lives to that laundry."
Working in a laundry was all they knew and the prospect of having to find another job was daunting, said Richard Putland, who has worked there for six years.
"Most people here have family, kids, mortgages. It's a stressful time for everyone."
The uncertainty is so great that some have started looking at employment options, including mother-of-three Lagi Kosena.
"I've worked here for three years. Before that I was made redundant, so I know what it's like. Times are hard now and it was a struggle trying to get this job."
- The Press
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