The Aramark Off Our Campus campaign group have criticised Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Kevin Keane for meeting an Aramark official without informing the campaign team. The campaign previously refused to meet the said official.
Speaking on behalf of the campaign, Junior Sophister Botany student Jessie Dolliver said: “The fact that the SU president met with a representative was disappointing news. It suggests that the union is open to negotiation and discussion with Aramark. Our campaign is certainly not. Their meeting was not appreciated by the campaign whatsoever. At best, it represents an unsettling lack of communication between SU staff and campaigners. At worst, it represents a disregard for our opinion and input. Either way it is symptomatic of an uneven and dysfunctional relationship.”
Dolliver continued: “Lack of communication is what causes the breakdown of many would-be successful campaigns. If we want to be strong and to succeed in this we have to work together. Hopefully in the New Year this will be improved upon.”
Ciaran O’Driscoll, who identified himself as a previous manager of Aramark in Trinity, had previously contacted Dolliver on her personal Facebook page, and said that a second official, Mark Long, wanted to meet with the campaign. Long, the Key Account Director at Aramark Ireland, went on to meet Keane.
The campaign group decided not to meet Long, with Dolliver commenting: “The logic behind this decision was that there was no possible way meeting with them could benefit our campaign. They have nothing to offer us that we would value. We don’t want a working relationship with this company. We want them gone.”
Keane informed Dolliver and another campaign member Edwyn Hitchcock that he had met with Long “out of courtesy” and said that he assured Long that the union was not interested in working with Aramark. Minutes from the meeting between Keane and the campaign also note that Long said there was “nothing wrong at the centres and assured [Keane] centres [sic] were great”.
Keane confirmed to a member of the campaign that the meeting occurred after the mandate for TCDSU to support the Aramark Off Our Campus campaign had passed at the second SU Council of the year. As part of the mandate, Keane, along with the Citizenship Officer and the Ethnic Minorities Officer of the SU, is required to lobby College to not renew their contract with Aramark when it expires in September 2021. The motion, proposed by Stacy Wrenn, Junior Sophister Jewish and Islamic Civilisations student, was co-submitted by Aghogho Atiyota, the SU’s Ethnic Minorities Officer, and Conor Reddy, the class representative for Senior Sophister Genetics.
Trinity’s contract with Aramark is in place until 2019, with an option to extend it until 2021. The value of the contract is unknown.
The Aramark Off Our Campus campaign was launched in November 2017. The campaign hopes to secure a supplier with no connections to direct provision centres to provide food in Trinity instead.
Aramark has been the subject of widespread criticism for its role in providing sub-standard food to asylum seekers and refugees living in Ireland’s Direct Provision centres. In 2015, Aramark was awarded the catering contract by College for the Westland Eats restaurant in the Hamilton building. Aramark’s contract with Trinity was awarded following a public procurement competition.
Keane did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.