Aramark Off Our Campus continued their boycott campaign today with a second protest taking place outside Westland Eats. Trinity students displayed banners stating “Aramark Profits From Human Suffering” and “Westland Eats Funds Refugee Imprisonment” as part of the demonstration. The afternoon protest is the campaign group’s second direct action this term.
Speaking to Trinity News, campaign member Stacy Wrenn said, “We’re here again to remind students about what’s going on within Trinity and of the relations that Trinity has with outside bodies.” Wrenn added that, “Ultimately, by going into places like Gastro, Mexico Kitchen and Costa students become complicit in the process because they’re run by Aramark, which profits from direct provision.”
Aramark caters for provision centres in Cork, Clare and Westmeath. The protest group object to Trinity’s contract arrangements with the company. Aramark operates the Westland Eats café externally and has a contract with Trinity until 2019 which can be extended until 2021. The contract was awarded through a procurement process.
Aramark Off Our Campus want Trinity to secure a new contract with an alternative food supplier with no connections to direct provision centres. The campaign group aim to remove Aramark from Trinity campus through series of demonstrations and boycotts.
The protest follows on from a previous demonstration this term. Last week, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) passed a motion to boycott Aramark and to assist member organisations in campaigning for the removal of Aramark operated services on university campuses.
Similar campaign groups have started in the University of Limerick (UL) by UL Student Life, the university’s student union as well as a boycott campaign launched last year in University College Dublin.
In 2016, Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) released a reported stating that Aramark was paid €5.2 million for its services by the Irish state in the direct provision system. Previously up to 2010, Aramark received €16 million from the state.
Aramark has previously stated to Trinity News that: “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.”
In response to this statement, Wrenn said: “Aramark has no influence on government policy, but it does have control in the running of their centres. They run three direct provision centres where they’re in charge of everything from the staff that they hire down to the food that gets served. There’s been numerous protests within these centres, and we’re just respecting the voices of asylum seekers in those centres and showing solidarity with them.”
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.
Additional reporting by Sarah Moran