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2008 Spring Issue 8 (May 30, 2008)

Food service employees concerned about Bon Appétit work contracts

May 30, 2008
By Christina Sainati

Carleton food service workers worry about the future of their jobs as the college transitions to Bon Appetit, a new food management company. Bon Appetit’s contract with Carleton begins July 1st, ending a thirty year relationship with Sodexho. At least six workers and ten students have expressed concerns about the workers’ pensions, insurance, and general indecisiveness of the company; they say that there are many more workers who are also concerned.

Negotiations between the Local 70, the union that represents the workers, and Bon Appetite are still underway. However, union stewarts say “Bon Appetit came to the negotiation table with a contract already written up”, leaving little room for negotiations.

Bon Appetit has told the workers whether they will be employed or not, but workers still feel that the company has not had enough communication with the them. “[Bon Appetit] has kept us in the dark as far as everything. Everyone [at work] is on nerves because of all the indecision,” said one worker. Another worker says that she wishes there would have been more informational meetings, or a manager hired to oversee the transition.

Workers also worry about a stipulation on Bon Appetit’s application that allows the company to fire them without reason within the first 90 days of employment. Workers do not know yet if they will receive insurance during those 90 days; Bon Appetite has said that they are still trying to figure out this detail.

The status of workers pensions and sick days that have accumulated under Sodexho is yet another unclear part of the transition. One worker has saved 1,000 sick hours; another has saved 400. Workers were unsure about what will happen to their pensions and sick days, but Rogers said that they will probably be sorted out through Sodexho and the union contract.

Many of these changes came as a surprise to student members of the dining task force. “The students on the [dining] committee were informed by administrators that Carleton's union contract would largely continue to apply to the workers under Bon Appetit as it currently does under Sodexho” said Evan Rowe ‘09, a student dining task force member.

The effects on the workers from a change in companies was foreseen and discussed during the college’s search and evaluation of companies. During a college council meeting September 17th, 2007 college Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers reminded “of the disruption to many employees caused by switching providers and the importance of being sensitive to the many challenges this could create for Sodexho employees.” At that meeting, Scott Bierman, Dean of the College also commented on the “trauma of transition if a new provider is chosen”.

In response to the expressed distress among the workers, “both [Bon Appetit and the union] are working to make this a smooth transition,” said David Toay, Bon Appetit’s regional Vice President.

As of now, over fifty percent of the workers have been rehired, and Bon Appetit will acknowledge the Local 70, the union that currently represents the workers under the Sodexho contract. Two workers were not allowed to reapply for their jobs. Bon Appetit will set the wages to what they were suppose to have been under the current contract with Sodexho. At St. Olaf college, the workers are not unionized.

A new union contract will be negotiated with the change in food management companies. Three years ago, negotiating over “an unusual arrangement” Carleton sat at the bargaining table with Local 70 and Sodexho, said Fred Rogers Vice President and Treasurer. The old union contract included the food service workers employed by Sodexho and the grounds crew and custodial workers, employed under Carleton. Rogers is not positive when this arrangement began, but with Bon Appetite’s arrival, dining workers will have a separate contract than Carleton grounds and custodial employees, he said.

The decision to hire Bon Appetit involved many actors. A consultant, John Cornyn from the Cornyn Fasano Group, was hired in order to help make the decision; he recommended that the college stay with Sodexho because, “they could improve the dining services dramatically with the new contract without changing vendors.” Also in September of 2007, a dining task force was formed to research and investigate food management companies. After examining 14 companies, surveying the student body, hosting public forums, a facebook group and a gmail account, the task force recommended Bon Appetite because of it’s “commitment to fresh, locally grown, sustainable food sources, chef-driven menus, and the sense of alignment and commitment between Carleton’s values and Bon Appétit’s approach to food selection, preparation, and nutritional philosophy,” said an all campus email April 2, 2008. The task force included: Fred Rogers, Hudlin Wagner, Dan Bergeson, Vera Chang ‘09, Chris Clark ‘10, Leah Greenberg ‘09, Amanda Hess ‘08, Cedrina Knight, Leon Lunder, Brent Nystrom, Kris Parker, Evan Rowe ‘09, and Bucky Zietz.

Student members of the dining task force “hope to speak with Bon Appetite representatives on campus,” before anything is finalized said Hess. The hiring and union contract will be settled by July 1st at the latest.

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