aramarkUPDATE: If you would like to help Aramark staff facing redundancy this Christmas, please write a letter of objection to University Pro-Vice Chancellor of Operations Chris Cobb (Chris.Cobb@london.ac.uk)and Vivienne Shinner of Aramark (Shinner-Vivienne@aramark.co.uk) and sign our petition on the 38 Degrees website – http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-redundancies-of-aramark-staff-at-the-university-of-london.

Suggested email – please adapt!

I am writing to express my concern about the planned redundancies among Aramark staff at the University.

I understand that the reason given for this is that hospitality revenues have been falling – and yet at the same time new zero-hours staff are being taken on, which suggests instead that this is an attempt to get rid of staff on full-time contracts.

In addition new catering outlets are due to open as part of Programme Beveridge early next year. It would seem sensible to defer this restructure until then, allowing staff to be relocated and avoiding redundancies.

I must say that in an increasingly faceless world of customer service I really value seeing my colleagues at the North Block café each morning.

Our branch secretary Catherine Morrissey has just submitted the union’s response to the planned restructure and job cuts by Aramark in Senate House.

See below for the full thing. Our branch meeting this week (12.30, Friday)  will be held in solidarity in the Common Room next to the cafe, and we plan to flier afterwards – so please come along and support our colleagues!

Aramark restructure November 2016 – Collective response from IWGB

Summary

Aramark’s regional Manager Vivienne Shinner announced in a staff meeting on 8 November 2016 that Aramark intends to ‘restructure’ a pool of ten people at the University of London site, resulting in the loss of three permanent jobs in catering at the University site.

This pool includes only staff on contracts with guaranteed hours. No zero-hours staff or their posts have been included in the pool.

Aramark’s stated justification for the intended restructure is falling revenues at the Senate House site due to a drop in catered hospitality bookings.

It should be noted that hospitality bookings are managed by the University’s Conference Office, which is staffed by direct employees of the University.

It has been claimed by Aramark managers in meetings with affected staff that the ‘pressure’ to make redundancies has come from the University itself. To date this assertion has not been confirmed by the Conference Office Business & Development Manager.

IWGB believes redundancy should be an absolute last resort and should not be considered until all other options have been tried and failed.

In this case IWGB does not believe Aramark and the University have done all they can to avoid redundancies. There are several grounds on which it can be shown that this restructure is precipitate and has not been properly managed, detailed below.

IWGB calls on the University of London and its subcontractor Aramark to halt these plans for one year, to allow time for the many possible solutions that would enable affected staff to continue their employment to be tested.

Further, IWGB believes that a failure to do so could result in any redundancies made under this process being challenged in court as unlawful and will give its full support to all staff wishing to take such a case forward.

We very much hope that this will be unnecessary and that suitable employment can be found for the affected staff, within the University site itself.

Detail

Grounds on which IWGB and affected staff believe this restructure is unnecessary and potentially illegal are as follows.

Suitable alternative employment on site or nearby is being withheld

  • The company is under a legal and moral duty to seek to offer suitable alternative employment rather than make staff redundant.
  • However, three people were employed by Aramark on zero hours contracts just weeks before three redundancies of permanent staff were announced.
  • Earlier in 2016 (August) 30 new staff were employed by Aramark in a new unit just a short walk from the Senate House site.
  • The new café scheduled to be built in the Senate House basement in 2017 will be run by Aramark. This will be a large café catering to hundreds of University staff. Experienced, reliable staff will be needed to manage and run this. It makes no sense to make three such staff redundant mere months before this.

The new structure disproportionately affects ethnic minority staff and may be discriminatory

  • There has been no equality impact assessment about how this proposed restructure, and the pool as it has been selected, impacts on ethnic minority staff.
  • Had there been, it would be obvious that ethnic minority groups are at risk of being disproportionately affected. Looking at the current structure and the proposed new structure, it is clear that current managers and administrators, all of whom are white British or Irish, can slot easily into the new roles. Ethnic minority staff are not so fortunate and at least three out of four of them are at high risk of losing their jobs.

The consultation has not been genuine or appropriate

  • The consultation period is too short – Aramark formally announced it in November and allowed the statutory minimum time for ‘consultation’. However, staff are aware that managers have been planning this restructure since August 2016. Employers are under a legal duty to consult for as long as possible. Aramark has failed to do so in this case.
  • A few weeks before this restructure was formally announced, affected staff were asked to come up with ideas for how to make cost savings and/or increase revenue on site. Many staff did so. However, at the first formal ‘consultation meeting’, which to date is the only further staff meeting held on the subject, they were not asked for or given opportunity to say what ideas they had.
  • IWGB believes this is because Aramark wishes to get permanent staff off its payroll and gradually replace them with zero-hours staff, while paying lip service to protecting jobs.

The redundancies are not genuine and are therefore illegal

  • Seven people cannot do the work of ten and maintain the same level of service. For example, a Deputy Manager cannot be an effective deputy, supervising work in the basement kitchens and doing high-level administration in the office, while at the same time taking on the full-time tasks of the busy ground-floor Café Supervisor. In the new structure this person will have to be supported by staff on zero-hours contracts whose roles are not detailed in the plans. Therefore the role of Café Supervisor is not genuinely redundant at all.
  • Replacing a permanent staff member with a zero-hours staff member in this way would constitute constructive dismissal and will be immediately challenged in court by IWGB.
  • Additionally, there is no rationale for including the Senate House café in this restructure and yet excluding the much quieter Institute of Advanced Legal Studies café. If it were a genuine case of wishing to make cost savings the pool should take into account where revenues are generated.
  • Affected staff are currently still being put under pressure to attend work even when ill, which further indicates that far from being redundant, their roles are in fact essential.
  • High levels of overtime are currently being performed by staff affected by this restructure. Aramark state that they have ‘the aim of avoiding, if possible, any compulsory redundancies’. If these levels of overtime continue while redundancies are made, it will be clear that they were avoidable, and that Aramark has failed to pursue its stated aim in this regard. Instead, overtime should be stopped and these hours should be shared among affected staff.

Claims about falling revenue have not been evidenced

  • There is no evidence of a need for this restructure. Figures have not been provided either by Aramark or the University to justify the claims of ‘falling revenues’ in terms of catering at Senate House.
  • The University has recently taken on the management of a new suite of conference venues, in the former students’ union on Malet Street (Student Central). Aramark were awarded the catering contract for its café and conference hospitality. It seems highly unlikely that with this new revenue stream, revenue can be said to have fallen.
  • The Conference and Events Sales Manager in the Conference Office has been on maternity leave for much of the past year. While she has been on leave she has not been replaced. It should be considered that the lack of this key staff member could be largely responsible for the perceived drop in hospitality revenue overall and that this should therefore be regarded as a temporary problem that does not justify three staff losing their jobs.
  • Even if it can be proven that hospitality revenues on average are falling, the Senate House café staff should not be included in the pool. The café remains busy and sales are actually increasing. IWGB regards the inclusion of the Café Supervisor in the redundancy pool as a deliberate attempt at constructive dismissal and will use past evidence of attempts to intimidate and discredit this long-serving staff member as supporting evidence of this should the case reach an employment tribunal.

There are several other easy ways to reduce costs or save jobs

Other ways to cut costs have not been appropriately trialled and considered. Staff have come up with several suggestions about how the alleged problem of falling revenues can be addressed, for example:

  • As mentioned above, it should be obvious that the lack of a dedicated and experienced sales manager will impact on overall revenues. The University and Aramark should wait for this staff member to return from leave and reprise the role for several months before assessing whether the drop in revenue was a temporary or permanent trend.
  • Aramark management have only recently arranged for access to the dry food store to be restricted. The current Café Supervisor has been asking for six years for this to be done due to theft of stock from the previously open area. This created waste and decreased profits. Time should be taken to see the effect of managing this appropriately.
  • Prices have just gone up in the café. Again, the University and its subcontractor Aramark should allow a few months to see what impact this has on revenues.
  • Overtime is extensively used by senior staff (the same staff who are likely to slot into the new roles in the proposed new structure). This will be having a disproportionately negative impact on the apparent profitability of catering at Senate House. Overtime should be stopped immediately to see what effect this would have on profits. Again, such a change should be monitored for several months.
  • As mentioned above, as part of its flagship ‘Programme Beveridge’ the University of London is creating a large new staff café in the basement of Senate House. It has already been confirmed that this café will be managed and staffed by Aramark. Building work is already ongoing and is scheduled to be complete in April 2017. The three staff who do not fit into the proposed new structure should be retained in their roles until this café is opened, at which point they can be offered roles there.

IWGB believes that the above is overwhelming evidence that there is no need for any redundancies among Aramark staff at the University of London site.

IWGB calls on Aramark to halt these proposed redundancies immediately.

IWGB calls on the University of London to step in publicly, to prevent its collusion in the discriminatory practices against ethnic minority staff on its site and against the attempted constructive dismissal of a longstanding member of staff.

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