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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Aramark resolves workers’ contract concerns

Published: October 14, 2011
Section: News

Dining service workers and Aramark have resolved the contract negotiations that dragged through the summer and into the new school year.

According to Dana Simon, UNITE HERE union representative, the corporation’s final offer was generous and ceded to many of the workers’ demands.

A few weeks ago, the negotiations slowed over health care conflicts with little progress being made to resolve the situation. Aramark attempted to cut the coverage of workers and increase deductibles and co-payments, which were financially prohibitive to many of the dining service workers. The corporation’s final offer was a complete reversal: Co-payments are now lower than they previously were, which is “actually less expensive for Aramark, as well” said Simon.

Effective Jan. 1, all Brandeis dining workers will be eligible for the UNITE HERE Trust Fund Food Service Health Plan. It includes expansion of sick pay, which counts toward doctors’ visits and the percentage of payment that workers are responsible for will decrease over time.

Most significantly, guidelines on hiring replacement workers have been codified: Open shifts must be offered first to full-time workers, then part-time and only then to non-contracted employees. Shifts cannot be canceled within five days notice without pay. The language in the contract has been clarified concerning union representation and to increase “mutual respect” for both parties.

The contract ensures regular pay increases starting retroactively from last July, when the contract was supposed to be signed, significantly increasing wages by 2016.

Immigrant employees are guaranteed rights to “take time off to deal with the immigration process,” explained Simon, through a piece of “creative language” in the contract.

Workers now schedule shifts on seniority using an “Aramark-Brandeis-wide hire date,” which means that employees take their years of experience with them when changing dining locations on campus.

Union workers cite student support as a significant aide during the negotiation process. Aramark representatives Christine Chase and Aaron Bennos declined to comment on any specifics of the negotiations but confirmed an agreement had been reached.