Trinity students protest against Aramark running café on campus

Catherine Gallagher

Protesters congregated outside the Westland Eats for an hour during lunchtime. It is the first “Aramark Off Our Campus” campaign’s first action since the start of term in September.

Students in Trinity College held a protest outside Westland Eats café to oppose the presence of catering company Aramark on campus on November 1st.

Aramark is an external company which has a contract with Trinity to operate the café. The dissatisfaction from the student body is due to the fact that the company also caters for three direct provision centres in Ireland and accommodates 850 asylum seekers in Cork, Athlone and Clare.

Protesters congregated outside the Westland Eats for an hour during lunchtime. It is the first “Aramark Off Our Campus” campaign’s first action since the start of term in September. Banners displayed included “#BordersOffCampus” and “Westland Eats Funds Refugee Imprisonment.”

Speaking to The College View, TCDSU President Shane de Rís described “Aramark Off Our Campus” as a “grass-roots campaign” that the Students’ Union have supported and mandated on their council of support.

“Aramark is a company that has many different outlets and one of them is the running and administration of direct provision centres in Ireland, which have particularly terrible conditions. They (Aramark) also own Avoca and a number of different businesses. One of the college eateries on campus has been outsourced, where previously it was run by Trinity Catering.

“The college is very aware of our objections to Aramark. We want to raise awareness and get students to boycott the company by not availing of their services. That is another aim of the protest, to make people aware of how ingrained direct provision is. You wouldn’t think of how companies are involved in direct provision, but actually are directly involved in it,” said de Rís.

The protest took place the same week that TCDSU held Refugee Week which saw a number of events being facilitated throughout the university in support of refugees and Asylum seekers in Ireland.

TCDSU also voted for a mandate to oppose the direct provision system in 2014.

Similarly, University of Limerick (UL) students also launched a recent campaign against Aramark, which operates several food outlets on the campus. UL Student Life, the representative body for UL students, intends to run monthly boycotts to protest against the company’s presence.

The company subsequently handed out leaflets around the UL campus headlined “The Facts” to students last week. According to the UL student newspaper An Focal, the leaflet stated that Aramark is an “ethical and responsible company”.

Furthermore, according to figures in the annual report by the Reception and Integration Agency, €5.2 million euro was paid to Aramark by the Irish state for its participation in direct provision centres.

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer for the Irish Refugee Council said: “United, students are a force. Increasing awareness, amplifying the lived experiences of people in the asylum system, and shining a light on the continuing policy of direct provision are important examples of strong student activism.”

Reid added, “Other student bodies could look into the contracts that their campuses are engaging with and follow suit if they find contracts being awarded that violate their university ethos and the student body’s values. They  (Aramark) are a large global corporation and have many investments which span our day to day lives in Ireland.”

Catherine Gallagher

Image Credit: Alison Clair