The decision to set the plans aside was made by Tom de Witt Hamer, department head for Food & Drinks, as the organisation encompassing the canteens, restaurants and take away counters is officially called. The change of heart followed a series of objections by the employees, the Employee Council and the University Council.
‘It’s good news. It’s a real relief’, says a spokesperson for the staffers, who asked to remain anonymous. ‘We get to keep our current contracts and wages.’
The RUG wants to outsource the restaurants and canteens to a commercial catering company due to the hundreds of thousands of euros it cost the university to keep operations afloat. That would also mean that the employees in questions would no longer work for the university. But the chefs, team leaders and operations staffers managed to prevent the latter from becoming a reality.
Criticism of the plans came from all sides, the department’s leadership wrote in a report. ‘Despite the disadvantages for the organisation, it has been decided to uphold the legal positions of the involved personnel.’
In response to the proposed reorganisation, the restaurant staff presented their own plan – titled ‘Eating with Groninger practicality’ (‘Eten met Groninger nuchterheid’) – wherein they sought to make it clear to the department’s leadership that they could save the canteens themselves. But De Witt Hammer did not accept that plan. ‘It isn’t substantiated and it doesn’t seem achievable or executable’, he told the personnel at the time.
‘That was very harsh for the employees to hear’, says Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV) member Vincent Boxelaar, who collaborated with the staff to create the plan. ‘It was disappointing, because everyone was ready to dedicate themselves to it and they still believe they can do it. And I agree.’
‘We would still prefer to run the canteens and restaurants ourselves’, says the staff spokesperson. ‘But our plan still won us some things: we will remain university employees, and that is a serious relief.’
The plan to outsource the canteens to a commercial caterer are still moving forward, though. The restaurant staff will continue in their current functions, but it will be under the supervision of the catering company. It is not yet known who that company will be, however. According to the planning, a decision on who will take over the canteens should be made known by June 2017. In January 2018, the restaurants should be back up and running.