Several cafeteria employees complained about deteriorating work conditions in statements to the Stormy Petrel, blaming the new management team for creating tension among workers.
Three long-time Aramark employees agreed to anonymously share what they perceive as negative changes made by the present management. They all agreed that the work environment has been worsening since the start of the semester and placed the blame on poor leadership from management.
Recent departures of long-time staff at Oglethorpe’s Dining Services office left the cafeteria without a permanent chef and several gaps in management. This is the reason for the hiring of the new Director of Oglethorpe Dining Services, Dominique Louis. Dean of Students Michelle Hall attributed these changes to low unemployment rates in Georgia, greater availability of higher paying jobs in the industry, and the fact that Oglethorpe’s dining services are closed during the summer.
One of the employees claimed that several long-term workers were unhappy at the current workplace environment, “The new management team, they have no work culture” they said. “They’re not even capable of greeting workers as they arrive.”
The employee went on to criticize the current management for being unable to keep up with the needs of the student body, pointing out issues like inconsistent product stocking that, they claimed, has caused negative experiences for the students “The students pay to get a good service from us,” they added.
When asked about their opinion on the future of Oglethorpe dining, the employee admitted they did not see much room for improvement. “For this to get better, we’ll need to change companies,” they added. “The way it is now, nothing will improve.”
Their disappointment was evident. “I come here every day with love for my job. But now when I come here and see how things are, I lose my will to work. It’s the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve felt like that,” they said.
A second employee described the overall environment at the university as very positive, but acknowledged that recent changes had put long-time employees in a difficult position.
“The main complaint is the workload,” they said. “There’s a lot of pressure on those who’ve been here for quite a few years, because the bulk of the work falls on us.” The employee referred to an increasing number of temporary employees as one of the causes for this change. “They don’t have to embrace the work the way that we have to,” they added.
Likewise, a third employee attributed issues with food quality and preparation in Aramark’s lack of training towards temporary employees, which, they claimed, has resulted in slower service times.
This employee also stated their concern about new procedures set in place by Aramark, citing a staff meeting where employees were reportedly asked to refrain from engaging students in any personal way other than small talk.
All three employees interviewed requested anonymity due to concerns about possible retaliation and job security. Another two originally agreed to be quoted anonymously but later pulled back due to fears of repercussions.
Aramark Corporation has provided food services to Oglethorpe since January 2012, operating both the Petrel’s Nest cafeteria and the franchised Starbucks location on campus. The Philadelphia-based company operates over 320 dining accounts for colleges and universities nationwide.
Aramark has faced scrutiny in the past due to allegations of worker mistreatment. The company was forced to pay over $150,000 in withheld back-pay to employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2007, and in 2008 student reporters at the University of Minnesota found several cases of timecard manipulation and hostile treatment from that location’s dining services manager.
Hall explained the changes in Aramark’s employee training on how to handle student interaction as being a preventative measure for potential concerns and establishing boundaries. “When we have a situation of a behavior issue with an employee we address everybody,” she said, “but that’s not telling people not to be nice to students.”
She also expressed her disapproval at employees reaching out to students about workplace issues. “My concern is that they’re coming to you as a student, and I hate that.” she said. “What they need to be doing is coming to me.”
While Hall acknowledged the employees’ concerns about possible reprimands for speaking out, she said that she was open to talking to employees and reaching out to Aramark on their behalf.
Hall said that it’s been a rocky transition for the department, but she expressed confidence about the future of Oglethorpe dining. “We’re going to get in our groove. But I think we’ll do that when we have a lot of consistent input,” she said.
The Stormy Petrel Newspaper reached out to the new Director of Oglethorpe Dining, Dominique Louis, who declined to comment.