Southern Connecticut State University dining services provider contract changes could cost 30 to 35 union member jobs, workers say.
With the University’s contract Chartwells set to expire, it is currently in the midst of a Request for Proposal, (RFP) process wherein which it will solicit bids from food service companies. A new condition written into the RFP is that the provider give 20 percent of work hours to student employees.
“That is significant,” said Nicolas McDonald, a union member who has worked at the University for 20 years. “A lot of people are gonna lose their jobs. A lot of the workers are in New Haven, with families.”
Under the current conditions, student workers-also members of the food service union-work a collective 150 hours per week. At 20 percent of the hours doled out, that number would increase to 700.
“We always worked with students,” McDonald said. “We want to make it work. Do it in phases. Don’t just come in and say you want 20 percent.”
They have taken that suggestion to the University administration, which, through spokesperson Joe Musante, declined to comment because of the ongoing RFP process. But Vice President of Student Affairs Tracy Tyree told The New Haven Register that the move is being made because SCSU currently provides less student employment opportunities than other universities.
She also told the Register that an expansion of the University’s dining services could save positions from being lost, but union members are less than assured.
“Some of these people have been on the job for more than a decade, and they will be out of a job,” McDonald said.
Branfree Barnaby, who grew up in New Haven, has been at the University for more than two-22 years, to be exact. He started out scrubbing pots, and since then has done everything from cooking to catering. The job allowed him to save up enough to purchase his home in Meriden.
“This is my career-I don’t know nothin else,” Barnaby said during a phone conversation. “This job means so much for me.”
He’s been at Southern longer than Chartwells, which has been the University’s food service provider for the past 12 years or so. Barnaby and his fellow employees hopes that it extends its tenure, as they figure having the current company at the negotiating table might provide them with more leverage.
There are also other concerns associated with the possibility of a new contractor.
“If a new company comes in, all of our jobs are in danger,” Barnaby said.
In an email, Chartwells Resident District Manager Juan Dominguez told The New Haven Beat that he would not comment on the ongoing RFP process.