GTS President Offers Q&A on Protest by Aramark Workers

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As of Tuesday, July 31, 2012, Aramark, a major corporation whose business services include facilities management, ended the employment of five maintenance workers who had performed duties at The General Theological Seminary (GTS). Since then, the union representing the workers has waged a protest. 

Wishing to answer your questions about the seminary’s involvement in the situation, GTS President Lang Lowrey offers his responses below.

I have heard that GTS terminated the jobs of the maintenance employees, and now they are out of work. Is this correct? 

No, GTS used Aramark as its facilities maintenance provider. The maintenance employees worked for Aramark. This summer, GTS chose not to renew a services agreement with Aramark as it expired. Aramark chose to end the workers’ employment.

I have heard that Aramark gave the employees little notice. Is this true? 

We do not know what notice was in fact given by Aramark to the maintenance workers.

We, however, gave Aramark verbal notice a year ago that if we completed the sale of buildings designated in the Plan to Choose Life, we would not need the same number of maintenance workers. We also gave Aramark months of prior written notice once we decided, because of the sale of buildings, not to renew the services agreement.

Why hasn't Aramark transferred these employees to other Aramark service locations? 

Frankly, we do not know. Also, it would not be appropriate for GTS to discuss employment matters between Aramark and their ex-employees. We are disappointed, however, that Aramark has not continued their employment elsewhere.

I have heard that several of Aramark's ex-employees were employed by GTS five or more years ago before Aramark hired them. Is this correct?

Yes.

Why, then, does not GTS not rehire them? 

With deferred maintenance down and fewer buildings requiring service, GTS did not need to retain a facilities services provider, as we had done with Aramark, nor do we need full-time maintenance employees. At present, maintenance work is performed as needed by part-time workers.

The workers in question were employed by Aramark, not GTS. Aramark is a company, I believe, with substantial assets and significant employment opportunities for its workers.

I have heard that the union is paying the ex-employees to protest? 

We cannot comment on whether the union pays these employees to protest. We support the ex-employees’ right to protest and are keeping them in our prayers.

GTS itself has done some downsizing. Was the elimination of Aramark part of this downsizing? 

No. GTS ended the services agreement with Aramark because, after recent financially essential sales of properties, we now have fewer buildings to maintain. This was a decision not made to reduce staff while trying to maintain the same level of work.

It’s true that over the past two years, GTS has reduced its staff by 12 positions. Those staff members who previously lost their jobs were non-union employees. But again, we did not renew the agreement with Aramark because we did not have need for its services.

Isn't GTS financial condition improving? Why could GTS not hire Aramark's ex-employees? 

Several years ago, GTS had a cash loss of almost $7 million per year. This year, we are budgeted to loose just under $2.5 million. We are reducing our operating losses, but we still have some way to go to balance the budget.

Because we sold buildings, we do not have the need for a facilities maintenance contract involving full-time employees. With these sales, both our current and deferred maintenance are significantly lower.

Simply put, we do not have enough need to hire the workers, nor is the seminary in the maintenance business.

Has the GTS administration pressed Aramark to re-hire these employees?

Yes, I, personally, have called or written to Aramark almost weekly to ask Aramark to re-hire these employees.

What can I do to help the Aramark ex-employees?

Pray that they will find new employment, and pray, too, for the GTS non-union employees who are also out of work.

If you wish to advocate, you can write to me, and I will send your concerns to Aramark, asking Aramark to re-hire the maintenance workers.