Trinity College has finally cut ties with the controversial catering services provider Aramark after years of protests over the company’s controversial involvement in direct provision centres. At the end of January, the university announced that the Aramark cafes will now be run by Trinity College catering staff despite Aramark being contracted until the end of 2021. The news comes after students ran weekly protests over the company’s position in the college since the five-year lease was signed in 2016 with TCDSU President Laura Betson saying that the union is “delighted to see that Aramark will be leaving Trinity campus”.
The “Aramark Off Our Campus” campaign began in 2016 when Aramark, who also own Avoca, first arrived on campus. The campaign began due to apparent strong opposition across the student body against the direct provision system and Aramark’s involvement in it. In 2014 TCDSU voted for a mandate to oppose the direct provision system and this is said to be the main stem of the campaign. Aramark caters for three direct provision centres in Ireland and accommodates 850 asylum seekers in Cork, Athlone and Clare. Numerous accounts suggest that the residents of these centres endure terrible conditions. The student body opposed such conditions and so engaged in a tenacious campaign which ended this month in success.
The protest in Trinity has inspired similar demonstrations in UL and UCD. UL Student Life run monthly boycotts against the company but so far to no avail; Aramark even handed out leaflets to UL students in late 2018 titled “The Facts” which labelled Aramark as an “ethical and responsible company”. UCD first launched a campaign against Aramark on February 7th 2018, entitled “Aramark Off Campus” the group hoped to emulate the work of the Trinity campaign. The campaign has, thus far, not achieved the same results of Trinity. However, there has been recent renewed interest in the campaign within UCD Students’ Union.
Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter