Sodexo employees see reduced hours
Sodexo has been accused of violating union contracts by cutting employee hours, not responding to filed grievances and allowing for management to bully employees who step outside of their job descriptions, according to the Brandeis Labor Coalition’s open letter to Sodexo, published in the Brandeis Hoot on Oct. 5. Sodexo employees agree with these claims, while Sodexo management refutes them.
The issues the BLC is most concerned about are workers’ hours being cut, resulting in workers doing the jobs of other people, management creating a stressful and hostile work environment, grievances not being addressed by Sodexo within five days as required by their contract and an increase in the hiring of temporary workers.
A Sodexo worker at Brandeis, who requested to remain anonymous to protect his job, said of Sodexo, “They cut the hours and change everything. It’s not the same anymore.”
He said that since Sodexo took over food service at Brandeis he has lost many benefits. According to him, Aramark would add six percent of his salary to his 401(k) payments, while Sodexo now adds only one percent. He also said that he can no longer afford to keep his health insurance now that he works for Sodexo, as the amount he is required to contribute has increased.
“Right now there is nothing we can do, even though we are union workers,” the Sodexo worker added. “We go to the union, and the union can do nothing. I don’t know, because they cut the hours and don’t want to hire people, so we are working harder than before.”
Unite Here, a union under which most Sodexo employees unionized, representatives did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The Sodexo worker said that due to the decrease in hours of labor in the dining halls, he is often asked to do the work of two people by himself.
Andrew Nguyen ’15, a member of the BLC, said that he learned from the Brandeis Unite Here union representative, Michael Kramer, that in comparison to last semester, workers’ hours have been cut by about 288 hours per week cumulatively and it has affected about 45 workers. He said that he spoke to one worker who normally works 40 hours per week, but had his hours cut down to 20 for one week. However, Nguyen said that from what he has heard, it has been more common for many workers to lose just a few hours each week, for example to work 37 hours instead of 40.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say Sodexo cut their hours,” Resident Manager for Sodexo at Brandeis ShawnMonaghan said in an interview with the Justice. He explained that since hours of operation have changed at many locations on campus, it may seem as though the workers’ hours have been cut. He added that Sodexo workers on campus are able to choose which location they would like to work at, and if they do decide to switch locations, a change in hours will naturally occur. However, the anonymous Sodexo worker did not change locations.
“These cuts were often done without the knowledge of workers, leading to increased stress for those struggling to support themselves and their families,” the open letter read. “Understaffing forces workers to juggle multiple jobs at once without rest. In some cases, this increased stress has escalated to mental and physical harm.”
The letter continued, “It has come to our attention that the managerial staff actively disrespects workers through public and private intimidation, coercion to do tasks not formally stated in their job classification, paternalistic treatment, and by decreasing worker hours without prior notice.”
Nguyen said that “one of the workers described management as treating them like dogs.”
It also said that even if a worker files a grievance with Sodexo about treatment, it is often not addressed within the required time period of five days. Nguyen said that he learned from Kramer there is a backlog of grievances dating back to April of this year.
Sodexo management did not respond to request for comment on this issue by press time.
“This creates a hostile environment where workers are devalued and their legitimate concerns are ignored. By refusing to address the grievances of the workers, higher management enforces a climate of fear for workers and allows abuses to escalate. This unchecked injustice is unacceptable, immoral, and violates the Union Contract,” the letter read.
The letter ended with a list of demands for Sodexo, which included showing an active willingness to cooperate with workers, honoring their union contract, treating workers with respect and dignity, addressing concerns regarding the rights of new workers as well as non-union workers, responding to issues of transparency about work qualifications and prioritizing hours of union workers over hiring temporary workers.
On May 22 of this year, the Boston Globe published a column titled “Sodexo drops health care benefits for some, blaming Obamacare.” This column claimed that Sodexo was using the Affordable Care Act as an excuse to cut employee benefits. The columnist also wrote that Sodexo changed the way it calculated which employees were full and part-time in order to minimize the number of people who would receive full-time benefits. These accusations were largely directed toward several local schools, including the University of Massachusetts Boston and Suffolk University. While none of these reports were directly about Brandeis, they came out just as the University switched to Sodexo for dining services on campus.
While this has been a largely publicized issue at other schools, similar issues have not occurred at Brandeis, according to Jason LaPrade, residential district manager for Sodexo, in a phone interview with the Justice.
“At Brandeis, unionized employees have health benefits through Unite Here, which will not change as part of the collective bargaining agreement,” he said.
LaPrade said that the employee contracts will next be renegotiated in June 2016.
Monaghan said that the Affordable Care Act has not affected employee benefits and wages at the University.
Several representatives from Unite Here did not respond to request for comment on their concerns or actions by press time despite multiple emails and phone calls. Monaghan also did not respond to requests for a follow-up interview about the open letter and employee concerns by press time.