Workers at Donald Gordon Centre approve contract providing wage parity

The historic Roselawn House of Queen’s University’s Donald Gordon Hotel and Conference Centre, located at 421 Union Street in Kingston. Photo by Peter McKenty/Kingstonist.

Unionized hospitality and food services staff at Queen’s Donald Gordon Hotel and Conference Centre, who were poised to strike over a large wage discrepancy between food service workers in two distinct areas on Queen’s University campus, have approved a deal that will see their wages increase by up to 40 per cent over three years.

The vote came almost two weeks after the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents workers at the centre, negotiated a new tentative contract with food services giant Aramark Canada. Over its term, the agreement equalizes workers’ pay with the wages earned by their colleagues employed by Aramark on Queen’s University campuses, the union stated.

According to a release from CUPE, the team bargaining on behalf of Donald Gordon Centre workers had recommended that workers ratify the deal; under the conditions of the agreement, however, details were kept under wraps until after yesterday’s vote.

“The deal that was agreed is exactly what CUPE had first proposed – closing the wage gap between two groups of food service workers at Queen’s, both of whom have Aramark as their employer,” said Sherri Ferris, president of CUPE 229. “The adjustments won’t happen overnight. But over the next three years, the new contract will bring these CUPE members closer to a living wage. In the end, we’re pleased that Aramark agreed that this was a fair and reasonable goal.”

CUPE members had previously given their union a strike mandate as part of their fight to close a 38 per cent gap between their pay and that of other Aramark workers at Queen’s. In some cases, the difference was up to $6 per hour, even for workers doing the same job.

The union shared a glaring example of the disparity, which could be seen in dishwashers’ wages: dishwashers employed by Aramark and working on one of Queen’s campuses earned $21.36 per hour, while their Aramark colleagues doing the same job at the Donald Gordon Centre earned $15.42.

Under this contract, dishwashers at the Donald Gordon Centre will get annual hourly increases, the union reported, taking their current rate of pay to a top wage of $22 in 2024. Cooks, porters, bartenders, desk clerks, waiters, and housekeepers at the centre will get similar pay hikes, according to the release.

Joe DeSousa, who works at Donald Gordon Hotel and Conference Centre, is confident that equalizing Aramark’s pay scales will help stop the revolving door of staff at the centre. “Better paying jobs will allow Aramark to recruit and retain more workers at the Donald Gordon Centre, while clients and guests of the centre will continue to enjoy the same high-quality services they’ve always received,” he stated.

Aramark employs a workforce of approximately 35 people at the Donald Gordon Centre.

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