The Boycott Aramark campaign group are to protest on a weekly basis outside Westland Eats, the Aramark owned food caterers, in the Hamilton Building. The first protest is currently underway, from 12pm to 2pm.
Speaking to Trinity News, campaign organiser for Aramark Off Our Campus, Stacy Wrenn, said: “We have decided to hold weekly protests outside Westland Eats as an act of solidarity with asylum seekers in Ireland, and to show Aramark that we will continue to fight against the inhumane conditions of the direct provision centers that they run, and to end the institutionalised discrimination that is the system.”
This follows a protest held by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on December 23 outside Avoca on Suffolk Street. USI is calling on the Irish-founded retail and food chain to end ties with its parent company, Aramark, who bought the company in 2015 for €59.9 million.
Aramark currently operates three direct provision centers in Cork, Athlone and Clare, catering for more than 850 asylum seekers. Launched in November 2017, the Aramark Off Our Campus lobby group aim to secure a contract with an alternative food supplier with no connections to direct provision centres. Trinity’s contract with Aramark is in place until 2019, with an option to extend it until 2021. Aramark’s agreement with College was awarded through a procurement process.
Speaking to Trinity News following the demonstration, an Aramark representative said: “Aramark respects the right to protest but regrets that a very small number of students have chosen to demonstrate outside Westland Eats on Trinity College campus as part of a larger protest against Direct Provision. Direct Provision is Government policy and Aramark has no influence in this regard.”
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) is mandated to lobby College to prevent an extension of the contract following a vote in 2014 by the union to oppose direct provision. Kevin Keane, TCDSU president, was recently criticised by the lobby group for meeting the key account director at Aramark Ireland, Mark Long, without advising the group beforehand. Keane said that he met Long “out of courtesy,” and assured them that TCDSU would not be working with Aramark.