Food services will continue as usual at Queen’s University’s Donald Gordon Centre after the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Aramark Canada announced they have reached a tentative agreement, narrowly averting strike action.
The CUPE Local 229 represents the trades, maintenance, grounds, custodial, and food service workers of Queen’s University. Aramark Canada is the current contractor for food and hospitality services at the University. At the beginning of August 2022, CUPE 229 announced that their food service workers at the Donald Gordon Hotel and Conference Centre were poised for strike action.
Citing “a stark difference in wages paid to employees of the same company,” CUPE Local 229 stated at the time that 96 per cent of their members working at the Donald Gordon Centre voted to “give their bargaining team a strong strike mandate” in the last week of July 2022. The local union publicly stated that Aramark was currently paying its food service workers at the Donald Gordon Centre “significantly less per hour” than its food service employees elsewhere on Queen’s campuses – wage differences of up to 38 per cent, CUPE claimed, with some workers making up to $6 less per hour than workers doing the same job at other locations at Queen’s.
At the time, CUPE 229 said they were looking for “simple fairness” in negotiating new terms of their members’ contracts. And while the details remain unknown at this time, it appears some level of that “fairness” has been reached by the two parties.
On Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, CUPE 229 announced it had reached a tentative agreement with Aramark for the food service workers at the Donald Gordon Centre, “after a full day of bargaining on August 17.” Those negotiations, CUPE said, took place over several months.
In response to inquiries from Kingstonist, CUPE 229 President Sherri Ferris explained further.
“Unfortunately, under the terms of the tentative agreement, there’s nothing that I, as local President, can say publicly about the agreement,” said Ferris, noting that the union must wait until after an upcoming vote by its membership before speaking about what the tentative agreement entails.
“But I can confirm that CUPE 229’s bargaining committee will be recommending that members ratify the agreement,” Ferris stated.
The affected CUPE 229 members will review the proposed tentative agreement on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, the union said, and they will then vote to either accept or reject the deal.
“Until members have had an opportunity to review the proposed settlement, neither the union nor Aramark will provide further comment,” CUPE 229 said in a press release.
In the same press release, Aramark Canada representatives confirmed that service would continue at the Hotel and Conference Centre, which is located on Union Street in close proximity to both Queen’s main and west campuses.
“Under this agreement, Aramark’s food and hospitality employees at the Donald Gordon Centre will continue to deliver the same high-quality services to the centre’s guests and clients,” said Jinty Cresswell, General Manager at the Donald Gordon Centre.
When Kingstonist reached out to Queen’s University for comment on the matter, the University supplied the following statement:
“Event catering, hoteling [sic], and food services on campus are delivered under contract with Aramark Canada, which is a separate employer from Queen’s. Any further queries should be directed to the two parties involved in the bargaining process.”
Kingstonist also reached out to Aramark Canada for comment, but no response was received by time of publication.
Kingstonist will continue to monitor this negotiation process and provide updates if/when more information becomes available.