Warren-based firm takes over hospitals’ food pacts

Tribune Chronicle

WARREN – Warren-based AVI Food Services has taken over food service operations at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown and Boardman, as well as at East Liverpool City Hospital.

Few details of the St. Elizabeth food service transition were immediately available Thursday, but an AVI spokesman confirmed the company was taking over St. Elizabeth food services beginning today. A message left seeking comment from a hospital spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

In East Liverpool, the move will mean 50 East Liverpool City Hospital workers soon will become AVI employees, a labor leader from the hospital said this week.

It is part of a move by the hospital to contract with American-based companies for several things, including billing, collections, housekeeping and dietary, according to a media statement recently released by the hospital.

Two units of the Service Employees International Union District 1199 will transfer from being hospital employees to AVI Food Services. They include 24 nutrition support service employees and 26 environmental services (housekeeping attendants, floor/sewer service workers) employees will become AVI employees.

Kate Watts, SEIU administrative organizer, and union members Cindy Smith and Jerry Blaschak said this week they fully expect all food service and housekeeping jobs to remain intact.

“They kept the reasons fairly vague. We assume it was a cost-saving measure,” Watts said.

Blaschak, a cook with the union, said workers were assured there would be “zero loss of jobs.”

Watts said, a notice has been sent to AVI, requesting to begin negotiations, emphasizing, “We made it perfectly clear we intend to maintain all employees in the union.”

She said the company, which works with other union shops, is required to engage in bargaining with the union and said, “We will be using the terms in the current contract.”

Blaschak, a 16-year NSS employee, said, “Our biggest hope is we can go into this process and AVI will recognize the value we’ve brought to (the hospital) and the community. The hospital has been here 100 years, and we hope it will be there in another 100 years. It is part of our family. The community needs the hospital as badly as the hospital needs the community.”

Smith said it was important to get the word out that the changes being made by the hospital are not going to affect these 50 jobs.