Appèl lets over a quarter of its staff go

Last week at TU/e thirteen of the forty employees of caterer Appèl learned that they will be let go in the coming months. Coronavirus and the significant fall in the number of people on campus are the cause. A social plan is now in place. Board President Robert-Jan Smits deeply regrets that Appèl needs to take this step, but says that the university understands the position Appèl finds itself in.

Ten years is how long José Hermkens has been working in catering at TU/e, but on Thursday of last week this period came to an end for her and twelve of her colleagues. “I had just started work on an order when I got the phone call from Steven ten Cate, the account manager at Appèl. It came as a huge shock since I had hoped that I would be among the group whose jobs weren't at risk. I could hear that it wasn't easy for him to have to give me this news. I know that in all 360 people are being let go at Appèl, but the high number of dismissals at TU/e has been an unpleasant surprise. By the way, I did understand that at Appèl head office people will also be losing their jobs this week.”

Account manager Ten Cate says it is awful to have to inform people of their impending dismissal. “I've got four locations under my care, so last week I had to make a great many phone calls. Even though we only started up at TU/e very recently, I felt I had to tell everyone personally. The dismissals will take effect at the end of September, October and November. The decision about who can stay and who has to leave has been made based on the 'reflection' principle whereby the aim is to leave the age profile of the staff as a whole unchanged after the redundancies have been made. There's absolutely no picking and choosing involved.”

According to Ten Cate, the loss of turnover at TU/e is about 60 percent, and he foresees no improvement in the short term. “Now that TU/e is urging its employees to continue working from home, we are seeing them return to the campus in far fewer numbers after the vacation.” Likewise, student numbers will remain limited, given that in the coming period they will be taking just one course a week on the campus. “Who knows what direction things are headed in. If anyone knows, I'm listening,” says Ten Cate despondently.

Understanding

José Hermkens understands the decision that Appèl has had to take. “For a company like this, of course it isn't possible to carry on paying everyone when the branches aren't open, there are no events taking place and so no money is coming in. I immediately showed the social plan to a bookkeeper I know and was assured it was all above board. For each year I've worked I get a month's salary, which is the statutory amount. I hope that a colleague who will be staying on will swap with me for this 'transition sum' as it is called. This option exists (Ten Cate says it is called the 'place-maker regulation' (plaatsmakersregeling) - ed.). Because I really love working here at TU/e.”

Board President Robert-Jan Smits told Cursor last week that the Executive Board understands the steps that the caterer has been forced to take. “We are, of course, in discussion with them about how the reorganization is proceeding. But this is a private company with its own responsibility for its business operation. The impact on those who have been working in catering for years here at TU/e will be huge, if they now hear that they can’t stay on. We regret this, we are concerned about the situation and for the catering staff, but there is little more that we can do. A further consideration for us is the continued quality of the catering. This must be guaranteed.”

Opening canteens

According to Monique Kuyck, departmental head at Operational Services, the quality of the catering is in good order for the coming period. “Next week we'll certainly be opening the canteens at three sites: in Atlas, Helix and Gemini. And possibly also in MetaForum, where we'll know shortly whether extra learning places will be created in the covered market hall. But in any event these are fewer sites that we would normally be running, so it should be possible with the reduced staff numbers.”

Ten Cate agrees that sufficient staff are being retained. “We even have a few percent too many given the loss in turnover, but once a successful vaccine is found and the campus is back up to full capacity, there must be staff for all the locations. We just have to hope for that.”

Hermkens reports that Appèl is giving the staff facing redundancy the choice to stay at home from now on. “But I definitely won't be doing that. I enjoy this work too much so I'll be staying on until the end of October. After that it will be question of waiting and hoping I can find a new job, but I don't hold out much hope given my age. Besides, it's going to be a long while yet before the catering sector has regained all the ground it has lost. I'm really on an emotional rollercoaster right now, I can burst into floods of tears at the drop of a hat. The only positive thing is that at home I'm not the number one breadwinner.”

Is Subway coming or not?

As to whether Subway is coming to the campus, account manager Ten Cate says that Appèl is in discussion with TU/e on this matter. “In November we will take a look at the turnover, the number of customers and what measures are in place, and then we may start working with Subway before January. After all, we do like to keep thinking in terms of possibilities. If the figures and the outlook aren't favorable, we will decide at that time to postpone the opening until August 2021.”

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