Aramark was approved as the new food service vendor for Warwick Public Schools for the 2013-14 school year during a special School Committee meeting held on June 27 after the school department was informed by Sodexo it was walking away from the last year of its contract.
According to information provided at that meeting, the next step in that process was for the school department to host a job fair for current Sodexo employees from June 28 through July 3, but due to the July 4 holiday and employees out on vacation during the first week in July, the job fair never took place.
Anthony Ferrucci, chief budget officer for Warwick Public Schools, said labor leaders have been in contact with Aramark representatives and the job fair has been scheduled to take place on Tuesday, July 16.
Ferrucci said Aramark would have representatives from its Human Resources Department at the job fair to inform prospective employees of the salary and benefits currently available.
“Aramark has informed us they would expect to hire most, if not all, of the staff that applied, given their history in Warwick and their connection to our students,” he said during the meeting on June 27.
Ferrucci explained that although the employees work in Warwick schools, they are not employed by the Warwick School Department. Many of the employees have worked in the schools for 30 to 40 years and transition with each new food vendor company that is brought in to run the program.
Ferrucci said past practice has been to have any new incoming food vendors accept the terms of the contract the food service employees had with the previous vendor, but the school department decided to make a change and allow Aramark to determine its own salary and benefits package and to work with employees to come to an agreement that benefits each party.
At the meeting, Ferrucci used the example of the Cranston school district, which utilized an in-house food service program until three years ago when it decided to outsource the program to Sodexo. By selecting Sodexo as the management company and having employees apply for positions, Ferrucci said approximately 95 percent of Cranston’s employees were hired and they decided not to unionize based on the salary and benefits package that was offered. Ferrucci said this change has resulted in surpluses in Cranston’s food program for the past three years, and he’s hoping for the same in Warwick.
Ferrucci said the Warwick food program has been running an approximate $200,000 deficit for the past 10 years, and with the approval of Aramark and having Warwick employees apply for positions, he’s hoping to save $250,000; the amount budgeted for the program this year.
Following the job fair, Ferrucci said additional staff recruitment would take place, if needed. He said health insurance for new employees hired in July will be effective starting Aug. 1, and organizational preparation for school opening will take place from Aug. 5 through Aug. 16.
Ferrucci said employees will be covered on health insurance through Sodexo until July 31. If they are re-hired by Aramark, their coverage will start on Aug. 1, but for those that aren’t re-hired, they are eligible for Cobra benefits and must coordinate that through Sodexo. Because both Sodexo and Aramark are purchasing the Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance from Warwick Schools, for employees that do transition from Sodexo to Aramark, their medical cards and coverage will not change.
The job fair will be held on Tuesday, July 16 at 9 a.m. in the conference room of the former Greene Elementary School building, now being used to house school department administration offices, located on Draper Avenue. If you have any questions or need more information, contact Ferrucci at 734-3030.