Temple announced last week that after 28 years with Sodexo, Aramark will be the university’s new food service provider. The contract with Aramark will begin on July 1, 2017.
After the announcement was made, Richard Minter, the assistant manager for the Philadelphia Joint Board, Workers United — which includes Local 274, the union that represents most food service workers at Temple — held an emergency meeting to discuss the main concern of workers at Temple: Would they be able to keep their jobs?
“Current dining employees will have the opportunity to continue their employment,” Karen Cutler, Aramark’s vice president of corporate communications, told The Temple News last week. “There’s just a basic screening process that we always do.”
Later, in a statement, Cutler wrote that Aramark is “committed to working with the union regarding the current collective bargaining agreement, wages and benefits for existing union employees.”
Michael Scales, the associate vice president of business services, said that in similar situations, when other universities change their food service providers, the retention rates of employees is usually more than 90 percent.
Minter said there was fear among food service workers at Temple because they were unsure how the transition would affect their jobs, but that the union was prepared.
“This isn’t new to us,” Minter said. “Often on a university’s campus, it’s not unlikely that at some point in a worker’s tenure there will be change. … What’s important to us is remaining in continuity with our contracts.”
Minter added that the contracts the union has with Sodexo are meant to protect the workers if the food service provider changes. He said Local 274 holds contracts with Aramark in other places, so the corporation is not foreign to the union.
About 90 percent of Temple’s food service workers, or more than 400, are part of Local 274, said Richard Green, one of Sodexo’s general manager at Temple. About 50 student workers, the 18 managers and 25 supervisors that work in Temple’s dining services are not unionized.
“Everybody’s worried about their positions,” Green said. “[Sodexo’s] been here almost 30 years, so people are worried about how they’re going to move forward.”
“We have workers there with 35-plus years of seniority,” Minter said. “People don’t know what’ll happen tomorrow.”
Scales said the transition from Sodexo to Aramark “begins now.”
“[This] involves us discussing everything for a successful launch on July 1,” he said. “That’s everything from working with employees to capital projects, marketing and looking at meal plans.”
Scales added that “capital projects” would still move forward, like the planned renovation of the Student Center’s dining area before Fall 2017.
“In essence, there will be enhancements,” he said, adding that while meal plans could be re-evaluated, the switch to Aramark will not affect Diamond Dollars.
Scales said the decision process took into account each company’s response to the request for proposals issued by the university. The university chose Aramark because the company showed “creativity, innovation, a commitment to sustainability and fit to Temple,” Scales said.
A group of 26 people helped advise the university on which food service provider to choose. The group included students, staff, faculty and members of Temple Student Government. They then heard each company’s pitches that were competing for the contract with Temple, Scales said. After that, the committee sent in their evaluations, which the university took into consideration. Within the group, the recommendation to go with Aramark was “near-unanimous,” Scales said.
“We were very excited about … the amount of energy and research about who we are and where we’re going,” Scales said. “That they had knowledge of us as an institution … it was compelling and hard to say ‘no.’”
Aramark, which has been based in Philadelphia for more than 55 years, was ranked No. 1 in its industry in Fortune Magazine’s 2016 list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.”
Scales said details of the contract would be “getting more concrete” in the next 60 days.
“There are still a lot of details to fill in,” he said. “The reason this takes a long time is you have to take a lot of consideration. It needs to be done in a thorough and comprehensive way that respects both institutions. … I know we’ll get it done.”
Scales said he could not discuss financial aspects of the university’s agreement with Aramark.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.