June’s convocation ceremonies celebrating U of T’s newest graduates included some unexpected guests: dozens of campus food service workers took to King’s College Circle in an effort to win public support in their ongoing negotiations with on-campus food providers Aramark and Compass.
About 300 U of T food service workers, represented by Unite Here Local 75, are currently in negotiations with Aramark and Compass. The union and Aramark have been in negotiations since early spring, with no satisfactory agreement in sight.
“We are asking the public, media, and students to participate,” said Lambert Villaroel, a volunteer at the union. At the protests, food service workers handed out yellow flyers explaining their demands.
Villaroel is a line cook on U of T’s St. George campus. He earned $11.55 an hour in his third year of employment. “My salary has only increased by 25 cents [an hour] in the past three years. It’s ridiculous,” said Villaroel, who wants to see wages tied to inflation at the very least. “Aramark is only offering two per cent while the inflation rate is three per cent.”
“We are fighting for a decent contract, including fair wages, medical benefits and dental plans,” explained Teferi Zemene, a volunteer for Unite Here, on the day of the protest.
Aramark declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations. “Aramark will continue to bargain in good faith and we are hopeful that we will soon reach an agreement that works for everyone,” said Megan Haney, senior manager-communications.
“The university hopes that the union and the companies are able to work out the terms of a collective agreement without the need for a labor disruption,” university spokesperson Laurie Stephens said in a statement. Stephens also stressed that the university is not involved in the negotiations in any way.
But the union and its workers say they expect more from the university. “They have a responsibility to get involved and get the issue fixed without us having to go around like this,” Villaroel said.“At Chestnut [a university owned-and-operated residence], the workers get treated better, with better salaries and benefits.
“The job I am hired for should determine what salary I get.”