Zero hours, agency workers and rodents: investigation reveals Sodexo staff concerns

An anonymous letter criticising Sodexo’s management staff, seen by The Cheese Grater, purportedly sent by an employee, has raised alarm amongst Sodexo and UCL Facilities.

Addressed to the Provost, and initially sent to Michael Arthur, Rex Knight and UCLU BME Officer Sayeeda Ali, the letter makes several damning claims regarding the treatment of Sodexo employees. Whilst some of the claims have been unverified, several issues have been highlighted by the letter and the subsequent investigation.

An investigation was conducted internally by the company, overseen by UCL facilities, but several UCLU sabbatical officers were unhappy with this arrangement.

Leslie May, Head of Facilities and Workplace Services, asserted that all the staff interviewed “refute all of the allegations made in the letter”. However, at an open meeting, two staff members voiced their dissatisfaction with their zero hour contracts. Sodexo pay their staff the London living wage, but they receive irregular hours and many can expect no more than 20 hours a week. When catering for larger events, Sodexo bring in extra agency staff who are paid below London living wage.

Staff are also provided with a unisex changing room, which they share with the UCL shop. Despite this arrangement being in place for around a year, Sodexo claim that this is a temporary measure due to delays in renovating the UCL refectory. Whilst there are other changing rooms available, no efforts have been made by either Sodexo or UCL to provide more appropriate facilities for staff.

The letter also raises concerns over food hygiene, claiming that rats are habitual visitors to Sodexo cafes. Although a Sodexo representative dismissed the idea that there was a rodent infestation, he did admit that a dead rat had recently been found in Sodexo’s engineering café.

UNISON are currently conducting their own investigation.

Jason Murugesu

Additional Reporting: Weronika Strzyżyńska and James Witherspoon

This article was published in CG Issue 56.