Take precarious jobs off the menu for Trent’s food service workers  

Trent’s food service workers are an important part of the university community, but they aren’t Trent employees. Their employer is Compass Group of Canada, the food services giant, which operates as Chartwells on campus.*

Ever since Compass/Chartwells took over the contract to deliver food services at Trent, the jobs – and lives – of food service workers at Trent have become more and more precarious.

As Compass converts more and more full-time jobs to part-time, food service workers at Trent must scramble for enough hours to earn a decent pay cheque. They have no guaranteed hours of work; when workers are laid off in summer, many haven’t worked enough to qualify for EI.

Food service workers wanted to deal with precarious work and other related issues in contract negotiations. But Compass has flatly refused. It has said no to mediation with the Ministry of Labour and no to providing better jobs. Workers could be on strike or locked out as early as January 31.

Meanwhile, Compass Group of Canada had $1.9 billion in revenues in 2015. And since Trent University entered into a management-fee contract with Compass/Chartwells, it has almost doubled the surplus that it gets from its food services operations.

Yet neither organization will take responsibility for creating the kind of good-quality jobs that deliver the best services and help build communities.

Send the letter below to Compass and Trent to let them know that you support of Trent’s food service worker and their fight for good-quality jobs at Trent and in Peterborough.


* Chartwells is the division of Compass that runs “higher education dining services.”

Dear Compass/Chartwells and President Groarke:

Food service workers at Trent University are hardworking, dedicated and long-serving. But too many of them are also struggling to get by in precarious, part-time jobs.

Since Compass’s Chartwells division took over the food services contract at Trent in 2014, it has been steadily cutting the number of full-time jobs, all while increasing the number of part-time positions.

Today, over 50% of food service workers at Trent work part-time. For them, it means

  • not working enough hours to qualify for employee benefits
  • not qualifying for Employment Insurance during the summer layoff
  • competing to work enough hours to bring in a decent income
  • working when sick or injured because they can’t afford the lost time

Some of Trent’s food service workers are juggling two or three jobs to make ends meet; some live at or near the poverty line; and all have to cope with the insecurity of having no guaranteed hours of work.

Both Chartwells’ “higher ed” website and TrentU.ca have a lot to say about community, leadership, and social engagement. But these values aren’t reflected in the precarious and unstable working conditions faced by food services workers at Trent.

They deserve full-time, secure and decently paid jobs – the kind that build strong communities and allows workers to deliver high-quality services for students, staff and faculty.

I call on Compass to negotiate a contract with its workers that puts an end to precarious work and I demand that Trent to play its part by requiring its contractors to provide secure, full-time jobs for their employees.

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