By Adrian Morrow
A $200,000 food services deficit has prompted administration to officially close the Hub cafeteria during the summer, but cafeteria workers aren’t buying the excuse.
To them, this is just the latest event in a series of conflicts that have seen the hours of food service employees cut back.
“They’re nickel and diming our employees,” said Kella Loschiavo, chief steward for Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and longtime Ryerson employee.
As The Eyeopener reported two weeks ago, director of ancillary services John Corallo speculated that the Hub and Pitman Hall cafeterias would be completely closed this summer and the hours of other food kiosks would be scaled back.
On Friday, he officially confirmed the closures, saying it was partly because Ryerson is hosting fewer conferences this summer. Also, the opening of the new business building at Bay and Dundas has negatively affected sales.
The closures and cutbacks to other food services will leave more than 60 employees out of work.
All of this comes on the heels of a grievance the union filed after reading week, which protested cutbacks to workers’ hours. In another incident, three employees aged over 65 were re-classified as part-time and had their wages reduced.
“Nowhere in the collective agreement does it state you can cut hours back,” Loschiavo said. “They keep whittling away at (the workers’) salaries.”
The Ryerson Students’ Union also disagrees with the decision to close the cafeterias.
“The cafeteria should stay open,” RSU president Muhammad Ali Jabbar said. “That was the general consensus on this issue so we’re supporting them. As well, it will be good for students.” He said they were hoping to send administration a letter outlining their concerns.
Food services on campus already lose money, said Ryerson president Sheldon Levy, so the cafeterias will be closed to avoid losing more.
“If it was not losing money, or breaking even, we would certainly keep it open,” said Levy.
When workers take a job with the school, they are aware that they may be laid off during the summer, he added.
Corallo said that there will be more choices available on campus this summer than last summer, but he isn’t sure which ones.
In the past two years, Loschiavo says the union’s relationship with Aramark has been fraught with problems and negotiations have proven difficult. And it doesn’t appear to have any end in sight.
“They’re disrespectful,” she said. “They’re not coming up with a solution or having a healthy discussion.”
When The Eyeopener asked to speak with food service workers, Loschiavo said they risk facing reprisals from management if they speak out.
One OPSEU steward has already caught flak for passing out inion pamphlets. Managers discouraged workers from attending an OPSEU meeting last Thursday that was organized to determine their bargaining requests.