Less than two years after staff working at the Lunchbox café in Student Central were TUPE’s to Aramark from University of London employment, plans are afoot to close the outlet. This would mean the loss of a vital shared space for students in Bloomsbury and potential redundancies.

There is no doubt that with proper investment this could be a profitable concern.  IWGB is appealing to the university to reverse this decision and recognise its wider responsibility for Bloomsbury’s student and academic community, and has today contacted Vivienne Shinner, Aramark’s director of operations (see below), to call for clarification and question the hasty nature of the formal consultation process, which is taking place without adherence to due process.

Dear Viv,

I have been informed by affected staff that there are plans to close the Lunchbox café at Student Central with a number of potential redundancies.

This information was communicated to staff at a meeting on Wednesday 20 June, at which they were also informed that the formal consultation process had begun.

As with previous Aramark restructures, it is clear that due process is not being followed here.

  1. Aramark has immediately entered into formal consultation over redundancy with no attempt being made over preceding months to improve the situation or involve staff.
  2. Insufficient information has been provided for this to constitute a meaningful consultation – all that staff have been told is that the outlet has been suffering ‘difficult trading conditions’ and has made a loss of £12.6k over the last 10 months. Without more detail as to the financial situation (previous profit levels, turnover, investment or lack thereof) it is impossible for staff to participate properly in this process.
  3. No consideration whatsoever has been given to the role that the café plays as part of the wider University community, and the impact the loss of this facility and this space will have on the student experience more widely, as well as the other outlets based in the building.
  4. This comes only 2 years after the restructure which saw staff TUPE from the University of London to Aramark. It is a damning indictment of the lack of resource that has been put into the café that Aramark are now looking to close a previously thriving café.
  5. You state in your letter that this is merely a consequence of ‘difficult trading circumstances’. However, in the meeting you said that the decision had in fact been made by the University of London – which of these is in fact the case?
  6. Coincidentally, this comes at a time when Aramark and the University have been forced by the IWGB campaign to end zero-hour contracts at the UoL – it would appear extremely convenient that Aramark have chosen this moment to try and save money by making staff redundant.

Could you please provide full detail of the financial position of the café and the decision-making process / alternatives considered prior to this point?

Could you also confirm who on the University of London side is responsible for this decision?

Can you confirm that in ANY redundancy package staff will receive the enhanced redundancy terms accorded to University of London staff?

Best wishes,