On May 10, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation’s (HHC) Finance Committee voted to recommend that its board of directors award a new contract to food and facilities management corporation Consortium Sodexo, Unitex and Nextra (Sodexo) to operate Brooklyn Central Laundry (BCL). The HHC sent a clear shot in the direction of DC 37, the largest public employee union in the city in yet another battle in the war over the fate of public employees.

The decision comes after the city spent $1 million upgrading BCL facilities in the past year. The contract would eliminate 83 public jobs in the borough of Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn needs jobs. We need jobs for people with advanced degrees, but we also need jobs for people who didn’t go to college-people who have the motivation to learn a skill and the ability to become exemplary workers,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz during a rally last week to protest the contract. “So let’s not close Brooklyn Central Laundry. Let’s keep the jobs we have. Keep them in Brooklyn and keep them union.”

New York City Council Member Letitia James provided testimony to DC 37 last week and spoke disappointedly when uttering Sodexo’s name.

“Today, I join many other elected officials, as well as District Council 37 [DC37], in urging the HHC board of directors to postpone this vote and take the time to review DC37’s counter-proposal,” said James.

“My understanding is that Sodexo, based in France, has engaged in unfair labor practices in the past,” she continued. “In fact, the U.S. Marine Corps cancelled part of their catering contract with Sodexo in February 2011. The contract-originally worth $150 million per year over an eight-year period, totaling $1.2 billion-was cut after negative publicity from the U.S. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in regards to union bashing and poor working conditions.”

“It is questionable that the HHC would be so eager to contract with Sodexo, considering its spotty record on contractual matters and workers’ rights,” James said. “Furthermore, it is my understanding that Sodexo plans to move many of these existing positions to Rochester, which would mean a loss of jobs for city employees.”

Last year, the HHC released a report titled “Restructuring HHC: The Road Ahead.” The report, based on work conducted by Deloitte LLP, suggested that in order to improve the imbalance between HHC’s revenues and expenses the government entity must undertake a plan that would “right-size” operations, consolidate programs, close clinics and contract work outside the union for technical support.

In Deloitte’s study, the international accounting and consulting firm targeted administrative services, ambulatory care, acute care, affiliation/physician services and long-term care for “realignment.” In terms of administrative services, Deloitte suggested creating “cost-effective shared services operations” and contracting out “the management and/or provision of ancillary services.” According to the firm, this would save HHC $141 million.

Long-term care realignment includes consolidating services and proposals that would “target benchmark efficiencies in multiple administrative areas by creating cost-effective shared services in operations.” This, according to Deloitte, would save HHC $47 million. The firm believes that similar cuts to ambulatory, acute and affiliation/physician services would save an additional $117 million.

All of the supposed cuts to services would have affected the approximately 450,000 people who use New York City public hospitals regularly. But it looks like the HHC will try to get its way one way or another.

“Brooklyn needs those jobs-right here, right now,” said Markowitz. “Keep those jobs unionized and keep those jobs out of the private sector so that you can keep doing your job-a job for which you receive recognition and not nearly enough respect.”

Attempts to contact the HHC for comment were unsuccessful.