November 11, 2008

Quad Club workers fear layoffs in management transition

[img id="76999" align="alignleft"] Quadrangle Club employees met yesterday with their union representative to articulate demands for their first contract since a change in management this summer. The employees will begin formal negotiations once the management confirms which employees will remain at the Quad Club.

Last spring, the University assumed responsibility for the club’s management and handed over control to Compass Group Flick International in August. According to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives David Greene, a committee composed of Quad Club members selected Compass Flick to manage the club, and the new management has been in place since August 18.

Greene said that Compass Flick’s willingness to work with current Quad Club employees was “an important criterion” in the Club’s selection, and that the company kept every member of the normal staff on board.

But it remains unclear how many of the employees will stay on. According to union steward Stephan Gains, an employee in housekeeping and banquet setup, the University had agreed to find employment for anyone at the Quad Club who lost his job in the transition. They promised either placement in another University job, job training, or severance payment covering two weeks of pay for every year of employment at the club.

Gains said that of the roughly 30 club employees, only the three former managers have lost their jobs so far, and they are all currently employed by the University. The current staff is in a probationary period until November 18, when the management can ask them to leave if they are not satisfied with their conduct.

But Greene said that employees are now considered new hires, not of the University, but of Compass Group Flick International. Thus, if they lose their jobs during this period, the University has no obligation to help them find new employment. The probationary period, he said, is a “very normal policy” that the University also has with new employees.

Workers at the Quad Club, however, do not see themselves as new.

“They all feel they’ve been long-term employees,” said Bill Silvers, representative of the Teamsters Local 743. “Of course, there’ll be growing pains with the new management, but if they’ve been good employees for 19 years, it’s not like suddenly they’re not going to know how to do their jobs anymore. Their years of service have got to stand for something.”

Greene noted that the management shift was going to be a big transition to a “highly professional environment, which ultimately might not be the right environment for some employees.”

Quad Club Rooms director Angelica Almeida said that the transition has not been smooth in all cases, and some of the employees were “not performing up to standard.” She attributed some of the problems to the club’s past mismanagement.

“It’s like the employees have been living in their own world with low standards and accountability,” she said. “I assigned people a shift that started at eight, but they’d come in at 12 and be surprised that it was problematic.”

Almeida was not able to comment on the number of employees that would be kept on, and head manager Ryan Kingston was not available for comment.

Gains said that he believed that only a major transgression—drinking or fighting on the job, for example—would result in job loss. But, Silvers said, during the probationary period, employees could be fired “for any reason.”

There’s “very little recourse to challenge” these employment decisions, Silvers said. He explained that Flick Compass has agreed to let union stewards sit in on disciplinary hearings and make arguments on behalf of the workers, but until the workers have a contract, the company has the final say because there is no outside arbiter.

Silvers said that establishing this grievance process would be one of the agenda items at yesterday’s meeting about the new contract.

Protecting themselves in the transition was one of the factors in employees’ decision to unionize. Employees voted unanimously in May to join the Teamsters Local 743, the union that represents most of the clerical and service workers on campus.

The decision was also spurred by a number of conflicts between the workers and the previous management over issues such as trouble cashing paychecks, scheduling hours during special events, and conflicts over benefits and overtime.

Silver said that some of the employees’ problems, such as bounced paychecks, have already been resolved by the new management. He also said that the company has agreed to acknowledge employee seniority, meaning that a 16-year employee of the Quad Club would receive the benefits of a 16-year employee at Flick.

The union will only remain authorized to negotiate for employees if at least half of the employees remain at the club. Though Gains said he doubted the majority of employees would be fired, the union will not be able to negotiate the contract until its status is determined. Employees who stay on and the union will negotiate their contract with Flick Compass on November 20 or 21, Gains said.