Erlanger changes food, housekeeping contract

Erlanger changes food, housekeeping contract

November 22nd, 2013 by Kate Harrison Belz in Local Regional News

BOARD CHANGES

Erlanger trustees Jim Worthington and Kim White both cycled off the board Thursday night. Worthington had served eightyears with the board, and White has served for six years.

Both were appointed by former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield. Replacements to the 12-member board have not been announced.

The board also elected new leadership. Donnie Hutcherson is the board's new chairman, Mike Griffin is now vice chairman, and Jack Studer is now secretary.

The Erlanger Baroness campus.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Surrounded by people in suits and white coats, Jimmie Lee took his seat in the Erlanger hospital board room Thursday in his blue floor tech jumpsuit.

A 12-year employee who helps to keep the hospital's floors clean, it was Lee's first Erlanger Health System board meeting. He was there to hear the public discussion about moving 250 employees -- including himself -- over to a new employer before a final vote.

But there was not a word of debate, and the board changed the employment status of Lee and the others with a quick, unanimous vote to approve a $12.5 million contract with Aramark Corp. for its food and housekeeping services.

CEO Kevin Spiegel outlined bullet points of what the shift would involve after the vote had already been taken.

But Lee didn't mind.

"It's all right with me," he said. "It's really time for a change. I'm hoping it will be for the better."

The Erlanger employees were told last week that they will not lose their jobs, but instead will be moved over to Aramark's management. Erlanger officials have said the employees will retain their current salaries and seniority, and will be paid out all accrued benefits.

But they will be transferred to Aramark's health insurance and benefits structure.

In the change, Erlanger is leaving its 27-year partnership with Sodexo, which helped manage both food and facilities services at the hospital.

In a budget and finance committee meeting Monday, hospital officials said the shift is expected to save the hospital about $3 million and involve roughly $10.5 million in capital improvements.

About 40 Sodexo employees who work at Erlanger are not guaranteed jobs at the hospital -- though hospital officials said they may have opportunities with Aramark as transition negotiations between those two companies begin.

Community activist Patrick Kellogg attended the meeting to talk with officials about helping ensure those employees had a smooth transition.

"It is still Erlanger's responsibility to make sure there's not a discriminatory impact based on their decision," Kellogg said.

Lee said other hospital employees have mixed feelings about the change, but many are hopeful.

"We'll all just have to see how it works out," he said.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.