Institutional catering, Malmö – 18-20/6/2001


Malmö, 18-20/6/2001

Item 10: Institutional catering

Companies active in institutional catering (business, schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.) are operating as sub-contractors to the institutions. In most industrialized countries, institutional catering companies still have a limited presence in a market where food services are still largely provided by the institutions themselves, and they are almost non-existent in less developed countries. Their growth potential is therefore very high, inasmuch as it is linked to a trend in institutions to focus on core businesses and to out-source non-core activities (security, housekeeping, food services, etc.) This has led a number of institutional catering organisations to offer packaged services: Sodexho has entered the segment by offering complete life-bases (for oil rigs and others) with services running from accommodation to catering, security, etc.

The IUF, with the assistant of North American affiliate HERE, held on November 28-29 an conference on institutional catering which brought together 20 delegates from eight countries in Washington, D.C. Discussions and exchanges of experiences allowed to verify the major trends in the segment: concentration of the activities within a small number of worldwide operations, although smaller operations continue to serve specific niche markets; very high competition among the large companies, which must however be taken in the context of a growing consideration by contracting companies of the social dimension of sub-contracting; inclusion of food safety issues among the priorities of institutional catering companies. Food safety and social responsibilities concerns were especially considered at the European level in the texts adopted jointly by ECF-IUF (now EFFAT) and the European federation of institutional catering employers (FERCO) (see agenda item 5: Regional activities).

The conference focused its work on the three largest institutional catering organisations: Aramark, Compass et Sodexho.

    • Aramark has 167,000 employees in 16 countries but is mainly active in the US, where it provides food services to businesses, schools, prisons, hospital, stadiums, etc.
    • Compass has 265,000 employees in over 80 countries and is active in all institutional catering market segments.
    • Sodexho has some 286,000 employees in 70 countries and is also active in all institutional catering market segments.

The conference identified common concerns, especially in the area of competitive practices, employment stability following change in contract ownership, collective bargaining and the perception of institutional catering organisations among the general public and customers.

The conference recognised the interest of contacting the companies to try and establish minimum standards, particularly as regards trade union rights, based on ILO Conventions.

Through the Fédération des Services CFDT (FdS-CFDT), the IUF Secretariat was granted an initial meeting with Sodexho’s corporate management. This meeting should be followed by Through the Fédération des Services CFDT (FdS-CFDT), the IUF Secretariat was granted an initial meeting with Sodexho’s corporate management. This meeting should be followed by others. The first priority will be the issue of union recognition and trade union rights in North America.

With the assistance of UK affiliates, an initial contact was established with Compass with a view to set up a meeting between the IUF and appropriate counterparts at the company.

The Conference may wish to take note of the progress achieved and set priorities for action in this segment.

The IUF, along with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), also looked at the transportation catering segment, in particular the airline catering segment. For historical reasons, transportation catering workers are split between transport workers’ unions and restaurant workers’ unions. Constructive cooperation has evolved on a number of years with the ITF over this issue (in particular, the IUF took part in the ITF-coordinated solidarity campaign with the LSG Sky Chefs workers at the UK Heathrow Airport).

A joint meeting of the ITF and IUF affiliates was held in London on December 7, 2000. Among other issues, the meeting examined the developments in airline catering, characterised by the emergence of major transnational corporations, the use of new technologies and the impact of cost reduction pressures on working conditions. The Conference elected to focus on two major actors in the segment: LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet International . Gate Gourmet International AG operates 156 central location kitchens in 34 countries and employs 32,000; LSG Sky Chefs employs 41,700 in more than 200 kitchens. These two companies have so fare showed some hostility to unions, as witness the long and bitter struggle by the LSG workers at Heathrow, but also the standoffish attitude toward the IUF European regional organisation at the time of the implementation of the Gate Gourmet European council. A meeting on these two corporations is scheduled for the Fall of 2001.

The Conference may wish to instruct the steering committee on the degree of importance that it intends for the work on this segment of the institutional catering sector.