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Campus Food Workers to Be Eligible for UC Jobs

April 17, 2008

UC Davis officials announced today that the campus has committed to instituting a new approach to managing food service programs and employees, while at the same time remaining focused on ensuring that those programs are affordable and accessible to all students.

Under this new direction, the campus's food service contractor, Sodexo, will continue to manage residential and retail food operations on campus, but an estimated 175 to 200 nonmanagement Sodexo employees will be eligible to transition to University of California employment.

UC Davis' decision follows an extensive, six-month-long review of food service delivery models at college and university campuses across the country that employ best practices.

Campus and Sodexo officials here say they intend to act as soon as possible to complete the process of transitioning the Sodexo employees to UC-employee status and amending the existing contract. However, they anticipate it will take nine to 12 months to finish the job in a prudent manner that fully addresses the complexity of human resource issues that need to be managed.

During the transition period, the university expects to work with Sodexo employees and management, as well as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor organization, and other interested parties to ensure that everyone's interests and concerns are addressed as part of the successful implementation of the new management and employment model.

As part of the new arrangement, UC Davis anticipates that 450 student employees currently employed by Sodexo would be eligible to become UC student employees. As part of its contract discussions with Sodexo, the university will raise the prospect of continuing some form of the benefits, including current book and educational fee incentives, that Sodexo has historically provided to student employees.

"We arrived at this new direction only after an engaged, thoughtful and collaborative process. We consulted with many key constituents, including representatives from student governance groups," UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in making the announcement.

"Throughout the entire review process," Vanderhoef said, "this campus was guided by several key principles to ensure that our final decision would allow us to retain the high quality and diversity of our campus food service program without weakening our commitment to access and affordability for all students."

Vanderhoef's comments were echoed by Bill Lacey, Sodexo's senior vice president for campus services. "Our desire is to offer the best opportunities for our employees and services to the campus," Lacey said. "The university's decision allows us to continue our long-term relationship and commitment to our employees with our continued focus on service to the campus."

State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, applauded today's announcement. "This is a win-win solution to a problem that has divided the campus community for too long. It's a win for the workers and students and it's a win for the entire university family and the greater Davis community," Wolk said. "It also provides for the university to benefit from the expertise and high quality food service that Sodexo management provides.

"Chancellor Vanderhoef should be praised for listening to the workers, students and many in the Davis community who supported bringing these workers into direct UC employee status," she added. "We all have something more to celebrate this Picnic Day."

The campus's decision to institute the "management contract" approach follows a six-month-long review of food service operations at 15 colleges and universities across the country, including six other UC campuses. Led by a team from the division of Student Affairs, the review included on-site visits to four UC campuses, phone interviews with food service professionals at nearly a dozen other campuses, detailed operational and financial assessments, along with an analysis of benchmark data and standards from several professional associations.

Additionally, a "consulting" group of campus administrators, undergraduate and graduate students, and a faculty expert met several times to review the data and compare the relative advantages of the various food service options.

Student members of the consulting group included representatives of the Campus Unions and Recreation Board (CURB), the Residence Hall Advisory Board (RHAB), the Student Services and Fees Administrative Advisory Committee (SSFAAC), the undergraduate student government, ASUCD, and the Graduate Student Association. The group's membership also included Nancy Hudson, a lecturer and assistant program director of dietetics in the Department of Nutrition who has an extensive background in food service and teaches an undergraduate course in food service management.

Additionally, the university listened to ideas from a broad variety of constituent groups including student government, faculty members, community leaders and collective bargaining entities.

In conducting the review, the Student Affairs team was guided by five key principles:

  • UC Davis should offer housing and food service options that are affordable and accessible to all students, and are competitive with comparable programs at the other UC campuses.
  • UC Davis should strive to create and maintain a fair and supportive workplace for all who work on campus, including access to a range of competitive benefits.
  • UC Davis should consider a full range of management options when it may lack the necessary expertise to deliver specific business services.
  • UC Davis acknowledges the value of positive partnerships and the importance of honoring its contractual obligations.
  • UC Davis should continue to provide high-quality, food service options that are responsive to students' needs, offer diverse delivery options and a variety of foods, and are supportive of campus sustainability practices, while at the same time offering optimal value to students.

The 15 campuses surveyed represented a mix of three different food service models: self-operation: the university manages its own food service operations, and all food service workers are university employees; contract operation: the current UC Davis approach, where the university contracts out for the management of its food service operations, and that contractor employs all the food service workers; and the management contract approach: the university contracts out for the management of its food service operations, but the nonmanagement food service staff are university employees.

In UC Davis' review, the management contract approach outscored the two other food service models on a range of criteria that covered affordability and access, food selection and service choices, and workplace and community issues.

While the management contract approach to food service operations will be new to UC Davis, it is not new to UC or universities throughout the country. UC Irvine, Indiana University and Kent State University in Ohio are among those campuses that follow this approach.

The transitioning of the food service employees to UC-employee status and the anticipated amendment to the Sodexo contract are expected to add additional annual costs of approximately $2 million -- an estimated $1.5 million per year in additional costs to Student Housing and $500,000 per year to the Student Union operating services.

While a portion of these increased costs will be passed on to students, UC Davis intends to moderate the impact by: gradually passing on the increased costs over time; potentially expanding and modifying retail food services at places such as the Silo Union and the Activities and Recreation Center; using some reserve funds from the capital reserves of Student Housing and the student unions; and negotiating with Sodexo for an appropriate level of financial participation in the new approach.

Today's announcement follows by eight months UC Davis' agreement last August with Sodexo to provide increased benefits and wages for the company's food service employees on campus. At the time, the new benefits and wages were to remain in effect for the remainder of the university's current contract with the dining services company.

According to the August announcement, Sodexo agreed to augment its existing medical benefits plan by increasing the employer contribution level, effective Jan. 1 of this year. At the time, the UC Davis contract with Sodexo also was adjusted so that the hourly wage scales would be identical to the UC wage scale for all career (nonstudent) employees. The agreement also called for future wages to parallel any additional increases to UC salaries during the term of the contract.

Sodexo also agreed to use the UC Davis Principles of Community as an expectation of values and respectful conduct for employees, and agreed to use this guiding statement as a part of employee orientation processes and other employment practices. Further, Sodexo agreed to use an independent third-party review process to resolve employee concerns and to provide UC Davis with quarterly reports of any grievances or employee complaints.

At the time, UC Davis officials made clear that they would continue to evaluate all options for providing campus food service programs and their potential financial impacts. The subsequent review and today's campus decision to move to a management contract approach now completes this commitment.

Sodexo is a food service provider to more than 750 colleges and universities nationwide. At UC Davis, Sodexo provides dining services in the campus residence halls, and manages the retail food services at the Silo, the Pub, in the Health Sciences district, the Biological Sciences lab, and at the Activities and Recreation Center. It provides catering services for official campus events and for external customers who rent campus facilities. It also operates concessions at the Pavilion, the Mondavi Center, Aggie Stadium and campus vending operations.

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