Mar2017, Opinion&Letters
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Standing Up for Black Katz Employees

Starting in May, Dana Hospitality, a Canadian-owned company based in Oakville, Ontario, will replace Black Katz in the cafeteria and café. Dana-Hospitality specializes in catering for large institutions. According to their website, they manage over a hundred locations across Canada, and employ over a thousand workers. On the website, they also claim to make their meals “from scratch with fresh local ingredients.”

Darren Newton, chair on the Food Services Committee, said that when the contract renewal came up this year, the committee knew they needed a company with more specialization. Black Katz’s problem, he said, was that, as a restaurant business, they struggled to bring “dynamism” to the food—things like rotating menus, well-advertised specials, or any other tricks of the captive-audience caterer.

When the bidding process began, Quest sent out feelers for big-name specialists. A couple of large corporate conglomerates took interest. One of these was Sodexo, which employs over 400,000 employees and is worth over $100 billion in total assets. While we don’t know exactly why the committee chose the much smaller Dana Hospitality, Darren said it’s fair to say that the ethical values of the university played a role in the decision. The Committee didn’t want to employ a company too big to care about local ingredients or student preferences.  

But what if the company is still too big to care about who it employs?

When I asked Darren what the transfer process would look like for Black Katz employees, he said he didn’t know. He added that on that same day a few people at work in the cafeteria had asked him the same thing, wondering if they’d get their jobs back.

We cannot say for certain, but it is likely Dana Hospitality will rehire many of those who wish to continue work at Quest. The food industry labor pool in Squamish is fairly small (unsurprising, given the lack of affordable housing), and it would be a clear mistake to pass up so many trained and knowledgeable employees. And if rehired, section 97 of the BC Employment Standards Act stipulates that workers will continue to receive the benefits of work hours accrued with the former company—meaning they will retain saved up vacation and parental leave hours.

But rehire is not a guarantee, and this university can do better than simply repeating, “it is likely”. Ours is a small campus, and the workers in the cafeteria and café are not only familiar faces, but also members of this community. Sometimes they are our friends at the smoke pit, or our momentary comrades as we get coffee in chaotic blocks. Sometimes they are neither of these things—just people working alongside us on this campus. For that alone we should do our best to protect their job security.

Peter Englert and the executive team should call Dana Hospitality and urge them that, as partners with this institution, we expect them to act on good faith, and give hiring priority to those who are already here.

The Food Services Committee should use their position at the bargaining table to suggest that rehiring would not only be positive ethically, but as a matter public image—something Dana Hospitality should pay attention to if they hope to win over students.

If they like, the executive team and the Food Services Committee could use the language of the Mission and Values charter to appeal to Dana Hospitality. It claims we “Celebrate our interdependent connections across campus and the globe”. The first connection we have is to Squamish and the Sea To Sky corridor. And our first connection to these places is through the people who live there, and who bus each day up this hill to come work here. If we truly wish to celebrate our “close, collaborative relationships”, we should advocate on our partner’s behalf.

As students, we also have power to advocate. On their website, Dana Hospitality offers the phone number of the director of Western operations. We should call and leave messages voicing our expectation for rehire. We can talk about the employees’ consistent quality of service, their knowledge and kindness. Or, we can just say we’ll raise hell if we find out the hiring process was dubious.

Quest signed a contract with a smaller catering company because its business practices aligned with the values of this institution. But these values also demand we advocate not only for ourselves, but for the workers affected—those who do not yet have a seat at the table, but form a part of this community nonetheless.   

 

Contact Dana Hospitality’s Regional Director of Operations, Glenn Templeton:  778.875.4086

 

Students have created a petition on worker protections to be sent to Dana Hospitality. Sign here:

ipetitions.com/petition/fair-procedure-for-cafeteria-employees

 

This entry was posted in: Mar2017, Opinion&Letters
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Elijah Cetas

Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Elijah spent much of his time sitting at coffee shops reading books and newspapers because he had nothing better to do. This prepared him for coming to Quest, where he learned to love writing, despite the consternation, over-consumption of coffee, and rigorous procrastination it causes him to this day. Elijah is the opinion editor of the Mark. He feels it’s important that people have a space to write and share the things they care about, whatever they may be.

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