The conflict between labour and ownership continues between food service workers at Trent University and Compass, a multinational corporation contracted by Trent University to manage the supply and delivery of food on campus. Trent food service workers are challenging their employer, Compass Group of Canada, to provide adequate, full-time jobs that will improve the service they provide for the Trent community.
Currently, Trent’s food service workers are faced with precarious, part-time employment that leaves them in difficult and insecure financial circumstances.
Chartwells, the division of Compass Group of Canada that holds the contract for dining services at Trent’s Peterborough Campus, took over the contract in May 2014. Chartwells currently employs over a hundred food service workers at the university — more than half of which are forced to work part-time, some even fewer than 5 hours per week.
This leaves many food service workers in a precarious position where they do not qualify for employee benefits; they are ineligible for Employment Insurance when they are laid off in the summer months; and are forced to work several jobs in order to make ends meet.
The median income for a food service worker is close to $27 000 annually, nearly half of the Canadian national average of $51 000. Although this does not situate food service workers below the poverty line, it does place them in perpetual precarity, living from paycheque to paycheque.
For example, housing precarity is defined as being when a household spends more than 30% of their income on rent. For a food service worker this is approximately $700 a month in rent. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment in a Peterborough according to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Company is about $1000.
This places food service workers in a tough position before one takes into account that many of them are laid off during the summer months in Peterborough due to the lack of students of students in town
This is precarious existence is held by over 1.2 million food service workers across Canada. According to Restaurants Canada, a not for profit, the restaurant industry employs 1.2 million people, and is the fourth largest private employer in Canada.
Furthermore, this is a gendered issue, with 73% of the under appreciated, underpaid (based on the national average) workforce of Food Service Workers identifying as women.
The unjust conditions surrounding the employment of Food service workers’ at Trent University has led them to a strike or lockout deadline of January 31. A lunchtime rally will be held at the university’s main entrance on Monday, January 22, from 11:30AM-1PM. During this time they and their supporters will demand that Trent University require its contractors to ensure stable, full-time jobs for their employees.
We encourage the Trent community to participate in this rally and show gratitude and support for Food Service workers who play a vital role in our community.
Update: This article previously reflected that Chartwells employees faced a reduction of $2 in wage and a reduction of 7 sick days to 3. This was false and has been removed from the article