Trent food service workers who are struggling to get by in jobs that are precarious, part-time and insecure have challenged their employer, Compass Group of Canada, and Trent University to provide good-quality, full-time jobs that will let them deliver better services to the university’s students, staff and faculty.
Better and more secure jobs will also help to strengthen communities in Peterborough, workers argue, since precarious work affects everything from their ability to make their home in the city to volunteer with local organizations.
Food services giant Compass Group of Canada, whose Chartwells division currently holds the contract to provide dining services on Trent’s Peterborough campus, employs more than a hundred food service workers at the university.
But since the multinational took over the food services contract at Trent in 2014, it has cut the number of full-time jobs, to the point that over half of food service workers at Trent now work part time; some work fewer than five hours a week.
Working too few hours means that many Compass employees at Trent can’t get for employee benefits; don’t qualify for Employment Insurance when they are laid off during the summer; and have to stitch together two or three other jobs to earn a decent income.
Precarious work can even put the health of Trent’s students, staff and faculty at risk, since workers who can’t afford to pass up hours often go to work sick and illnesses spread quickly in the close confines of a university campus.
“It’s simply unacceptable that a highly profitable company like Compass and an anchor institution like Trent encourage precarious work, without any concern of how this sort insecurity affects workers, students and communities,” said Stephanie Malinsky, national representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents food service workers at Trent.
Food service workers’ fight against precarious work has led them to a strike or lockout deadline of January 31. They will hold a lunchtime rally at the university’s main entrance on Monday, January 22, when they and their supporters will call on Compass to negotiate a contract that includes good, full-time jobs. At the same time, they will demand that Trent play its part by requiring its contractors to provide secure, full-time jobs for their employees.