Pitt to compensate laid off dining workers who are students

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Sodexo laid off a majority of its workers without pay over spring break, when Pitt adjusted its dining services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Market Central and The Perch, the two dining halls on campus, remain closed.

By Jon Moss, News Editor

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Pitt will compensate student dining workers laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, University officials told the workers Wednesday. The move was first reported by Pitt’s University Times.

The University will financially support the 173 student workers laid off by Pitt dining contractor Sodexo with a stipend. It will equal their pay rate multiplied by the average number of hours they worked from the beginning of the semester through spring break, then multiplied again by six weeks, the number of weeks left in the semester after Pitt sent students home.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said at Thursday afternoon’s Senate Council meeting it would be an “enormous” financial commitment for Pitt to “underwrite” the losses of all subcontractors like Sodexo. Pitt had already committed to paying most student workers, but not those subcontracted by Sodexo until Wednesday.

“Our ability to support those employees is quite different from our ability to support our own employees,” Gallagher said. “It’s been much more limited.”

The approximately 400-500 dining workers laid off by Sodexo, as well as contract workers laid off like security officers, will not receive any financial support from the move. Many workers have said they currently face financial difficulties, and are trying to subsist on unemployment checks.

Traci Benjamin, a spokesperson for the SEIU Local 32BJ union that represents Pitt’s dining workers and security officers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After a 29-year partnership with the University, Sodexo’s current 10-year contract to provide dining services will end June 30. Pitt announced last month that it selected Compass Group, a British multinational food service company, as its new single-source dining contractor beginning July 1.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to better reflect the timing of the announcement that student dining workers will receive a stipend from Pitt. Since the University informed the student workers about this on Wednesday, this does not contradict the statements made by Gallagher at Thursday afternoon’s Senate Council meeting. The Pitt News regrets this error.

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