On January 27, Aramark employees working at the UTSG campus received a letter from their employer informing them that the university had decided not to extend its contract with the company. The letter arrived on the same day that the university announced it would be taking over all campus food and beverage services for the entire campus. The contract was due to expire in 2016.
According to the letter, the university has scheduled three information sessions for employees to learn more about the transition. Aramark representatives will also be in attendance.
“This move will allow us to take a more active role in creating comfortable and welcoming dining areas,” said Anne Macdonald, director of ancillary services at U of T, “We’ll also be able to enhance the food offerings available to students on the St. George campus, particularly those who don’t live in residence.”
In early October, the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education sent out a survey to many varsity athletes about the Starbucks in the Athletic Centre, citing that in the coming months the faculty will have the opportunity to suggest changes to the food services offered at that location. Questions and comment ranged from how often student-athletes used the Starbucks, to possible improvements or changes that need to be made to the location,
The change will affect employees working in locations such as Robarts Library and Sid’s Café, as well as those at New College and Chestnut residence dining halls, both of which were contracted out to Aramark. According to U of T News, the university is intending to offer around 250 UTSG Aramark employees opportunities to work under the new management.
The prospect of employment has current Aramark employee Robin* cautiously optimistic. “I would hope that a renowned institution like U of T wouldn’t put people out of a job,” they said. When asked about any concerns they had about changes in job description and hourly wage, Robin expressed concern. “Now am I concerned that my pay and hours will change? I am a bit. We haven’t been briefed on the situation yet, so that alone is a bit concerning.”
Aramark has held UTSG’s food service contract since 2006 when the company replaced Sodexho, a French company who were employed by the university for 16 years. During the transition, many concerns were raised by employees about the future of their collective agreement under UNITE HERE Local 75. Currently, the university has several union groups, many of which are under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
During the transition from Sodexho to Aramark at the Athletic Centre Starbucks, several employees, many of whom were students, were not re-hired.
In July, 2013 Ryerson University decided against tendering its contract with their Aramark in favour of food service operator Chartwells. Ryerson had been covering over $5.6 million in losses which former operator Aramark had agreed to undertake upon signing a contract with the university.
Owned by British company Compass Group, Chartwells contracts out to Ryerson, UTM, George Brown, and Humber College. Food services at UTSC operate under both independent and institutional providers; one of which is Aramark.
The university’s announcement not to renew its contract comes some months after the Starbucks in Robarts Library, one of Aramark’s contracts, was shut down temporarily by DineSafe, following a failed inspection.
Robin hopes that under U of T, working and managerial conditions will improve. “I am hoping that there will be better organization. Aramark doesn’t seem to have the right handle on scheduling,” said Robin, adding, “Although the problem may come from workers not showing up at times, I’d say this is a direct effect of how things are managed. I want to be able to come into my job every day and know that I have people to work with. Not to mention that I want my work environment to be good, without unnecessary tension.”
U of T and Aramark are still discussing the terms of the transition, including the date of effective termination.
*Name has been changed at subject’s request
Disclosure: Emma Kikulis was previously employed by Aramark; she no longer works for the company.