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Vermont State Colleges Stop Sodexo Benefits Changes

The chancellor of Vermont State Colleges told food service contractor Sodexo on Tuesday that it can’t implement changes that would reduce the number of full-time employees at VSC campuses.

In a letter to Sodexo, VSC Chancellor Timothy Donovan said that, “There is simply too much uncertainty for us to approve the proposed change at this time.”

Donovan’s letter cites a clause in the contract between the state colleges and Sodexo that requires any “substantial change to wages, fringe benefits and working conditions” for non-management Sodexo employees to be approved by VSC.

Sodexo announced a change earlier this year that redefines who qualifies as a full-time employee. Under the new definition, virtually all employees who work full-time during the academic year but take summers off will no longer qualify for the company’s benefits, including health and dental coverage as well as paid vacation.

Sodexo officials say the changes will keep the company in compliance with the newly-implemented Affordable Care Act, and the employees who lose health benefits will be able to purchase health care through the state exchange. The company also said it will increase pay to workers redefined as part-time to make up for the loss in paid time off.

Dan Smith, the director of community relations and public policy at VSC, said there are 109 full-time Sodexo employees across four Vermont State Colleges, 69 of whom would be affected by the change. Of those 69, he said, 23 currently opt for insurance through Sodexo.

Donovan expressed concern with how critics of the changes have framed the issue.

“The public discussion has assumed harm in an environment where no party will know the actual impact of enrolling in the Exchange without knowing the unique circumstances of each affected employee,” he wrote.

Donovan also commended Sodexo’s performance in executing the food service contract, but said the change in benefits qualifications “could have been handled better.”

Vermont State Colleges includes Castleton State College, Community College of Vermont, Johnson state College, Lyndon State College and Vermont Technical College. The University of Vermont, which also contracts with Sodexo, put a hold on Sodexo’s changes last week. All of the state colleges, except CCV, use Sodexo.

UVM President Thomas Sullivan has said the university needs more time to consider the implications of the changes.

In a statement Tuesday, Sodexo spokesman Enrico Dinges said “We will work with Vermont State Colleges and the University of Vermont on this ongoing process and will continue to support our employees to help them understand their options and prepare them to meet the requirements of the individual mandate of the ACA.”

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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