UPDATED: Claims of 160 SFU cafeteria workers being fired misleading

Michael Clarke, (centre) a Compass employee and union leader, presents the SFU administration the names of the students who have signed their support for the SFU food services staff.

While Simon Fraser University (SFU) is still determining who will be their next food supplier, an unfortunate hyperbolization is the latest twist in the plight of the employees worried about their jobs.  

Just past midnight on February 7, an email went out from graduate student Monica Petek to a portion of SFU students titled “URGENT: 160 SFU cafeteria workers have received termination notices.” This was sent to students who had signed a petition supporting the aforementioned workers, who have already protested twice over this issue.

This isn’t necessarily the whole truth, and is further complicated by Petek’s Facebook post claiming the employees were fired: “they won’t have their jobs after the end of April.” The post goes on to say that “the admin has opted to simply fire them instead,” which isn’t true at all.

As The Peak previously reported, there are tense feelings for SFU’s food services staff as SFU tenders offers for a new food supplier. Their contract with Chartwells expires soon. While SFU may choose to make a new contract with them, it’s a large enough purchase for the university that the Board needs to weigh in and due process (including fielding all best offers) must be followed.

However, the university said last week that it will be required that “the awarded Contractor [offer] employment to all existing dining services hourly staff in positions equivalent to their current jobs and at current or better wages and grade rates.” This is not a stance that has changed since then.

Following up with Martin Pochurko, the vice-president of finance and administration for SFU said this was just standard practice.

“I understand that Chartwells, as part of the contract with their union, are required to give their employees advance notice in the event they are not the successful proponent in the [request for proposal] process,” he said via email correspondence.

He then confirmed again that the contractor (Chartwells or whomever it may be) must offer employment to all existing dining services hourly staff, saying that there were no changes to their approach or perspective from last week.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop over 100 shares of Petek’s post on Facebook, which advertises emergency meetings to support the cafeteria workers on February 10. In a regular contractual process between SFU and their next food supply company, it is the cafeteria workers themselves who are being affected most, and misinformation doesn’t necessarily help them.

Should they come to find though that come May 1st they do not have a job, only then will the claim they have been fired might have some merit to it.

UPDATE (Thursday, February 16): Monica Petek has offered a response to the above article, which can be read below. The Peak has elected to publish it unedited and without comment.

“The suggestion that my Facebook post somehow instigated a ‘tug of war’ with the entire SFU administration, workers haplessly caught in the middle, is both highly insulting to the workers and creates an incomplete picture of the current situation.

Workers have been fighting for months for a formal guarantee from the administration that they will keep their current jobs, benefits, and union under a new food supplier. The administration has explicitly written to the union to say that it will not provide this guarantee. Furthermore, on January 31st, over 160 food service workers received notice of termination, effective April 30th. Previous changes in supplier have never been accompanied by such notices.

The administrators quoted in this piece say there will be jobs after April 30th, but they refuse to say if these will be the same jobs, if there will be jobs for all of the 160 workers, or whether these jobs will be accompanied with full existing benefits. In short, the workers cannot safely expect to keep their current jobs after April 30th.

Again, the workers have been fighting for a formal guarantee for months. If the administration is really willing to ensure that all 160 workers will keep their jobs, benefits, and union, why have they refused to put this in writing?

The last line of this piece, “[s]hould [the workers] come to find though that come May 1st they do not have a job, only then will the claim they have been fired might have some merit to it”, seriously understates the gravity and insecurity of the workers’ current position. Workers simply cannot afford to wait until May 1st. Student support is needed right now to let the administration know that we care about our food service workers and want all 160 of them to stay.”