Defence Force’s Hotshots given cold shoulder

The latest victim of the Government’s cost-cutting drive looks set to be an organisation that has provided vital services and support to defence force staff and their families for 67 years, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says.

“Labour understands Gerry Brownlee is planning to privatise the operations of the Armed Forces Canteen Council, with the potential loss of up to 80 jobs.

The Council was established in 1948. It runs outlets on camps and bases around the country for the benefit of Defence Force personnel and their families, providing vital goods for new recruits, and gear and supplies for personnel heading into the field.

“Profits from the outlets, which trade under the name  ‘Hot Shots’ are returned to the NZDF welfare funds and have been used to build facilities for personnel, provide accommodation support for those with financial difficulties, assist relatives of deceased troops and send Christmas gifts to personnel deployed overseas.

“Information obtained by Labour shows plans to restructure the Council include a proposal to close a number of outlets, cease some services while outsourcing others to multinational Compass Group which has taken over a large number of Government contracts in recent years.

“Given the AFCC is a profitable venture – it has generated an average gross profit of $3.5 million over the last five years - there seems little rationale in scrapping it, even less for transferring the profits to a private company.

“The proposal comes as defence personnel wind down for the Easter break. It is understood staff have just received notification of it and have been given only two weeks to consult on it.

“Gerry Brownlee has a lot of explaining to do,” Phil Goff says.