By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer
On September 10, 2021, president Joy Johnson announced SFU has hired Deloitte to analyze in-house versus contract-sourced food service and cleaning options for SFU. In response, the Contract Worker Justice (CWJ) released a press release stating their concerns with Johnson’s announcement.
CWJ notes Deloitte is a private consulting firm which depends on outsourcing workers. The campaign group is “confused” by hiring the firm to do a study for a policy to end outsourcing work. They also note Deloitte’s “concerning business practices” such as tax evasion and tendency towards privatization.
The CWJ group is a coalition of workers, students, unions, and faculty members at SFU. Since April 2021, they have been campaigning for food and cleaning service workers to be hired in-house instead of being outsourced. Food and cleaning service workers are currently hired through Chartwells Canada, a third party company.
The CWJ’s open letter from April 2021 states outside contracting limits job security because job contracts are constantly re-tendered, meaning that contractors can’t guarantee employment to workers. Compared to universities such as UBC or UVIC who hire their workers directly, cleaning and food service workers’ wages at SFU are “significantly lower.” Contract workers at SFU have limited health and dental plans, no tuition waivers for partners and children, and no access to SFU recreational facilities.
The Peak interviewed CWJ campaign organizer Jade Ho and food service worker Mitch Hoganson. Hoganson said food and cleaning service work is highly precarious with low pay, as a result of being outsourced.
Ho said CWJ were encouraged by a meeting with Johnson in May 2021 to discuss their campaign. “Her response in the meeting was not very forthcoming,” Ho said. “But then after the meeting, she did talk about how she would like to move forward with cost[s] in the Fall semester.” Ho explained this discussion suggested changes to the food and cleaning service model were being considered, and CWJ would be included in the process.
“It seems to us SFU is asking the question whether or not they should do in-housing, but we think that under all of the conditions we are in, the question they should be asking is, ‘How can we bring our workers in-house?’” Ho said.
“This is not a financial or economic decision to be made, it’s more of an ethical, moral issue,” Hoganson said. “If SFU is the supposed ‘engaged university,’ and the mantra and slogan of the university is ‘equity, diversity, and inclusion,’ by contracting out these essential workers, it’s a form of hypocrisy.”
In an email statement to The Peak, Matt Kieltyka, SFU’s communications associate, media relations and public affairs, said, “SFU values our contracted workers and wants to ensure that they are treated fairly. The university also needs to do its due diligence and develop a full understanding of the value, risks, and impacts of such a major change.”
Kieltyka said CWJ leaders would be a part of the stakeholder consultation and Deloitte would be scheduling an interview with them. In a follow-up email, Ho said CWJ have not heard from Johnson on whether they will meet. “It looks like we will only be consulted by Deloitte and will not be included in the process other than that.
“We do not consider consultation a meaningful involvement in the process of something that concerns the workers. Workers should have full participation in every part of the process.”
Updates to the CWJ campaign can be found on their website. The CWJ can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and interested parties can join their mailing list to find ways to volunteer or help.