|By Jay Fitzgerald, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 17, 2008 - The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority yesterday dumped Aramark Corp. as its concessionaire at the Hynes and South Boston convention centers, citing disappointing service and an ongoing labor dispute with a food-service union.
The authority also signaled yesterday it may end up running the catering and concession services on its own -- a prospect that brought sharp criticism from a tax activist who warned the authority might end up dishing out lucrative contracts to union members who'd become virtual government workers.
In a letter to Aramark yesterday, MCCA executive director James Rooney said the authority has been "consistently" worried about the "quality and level of service provided by Aramark" at its two centers.
Despite promises to improve the quality of catering and concession services, Aramark's performance has led to widespread "customer dissatisfaction" with food and beverages at shows, Rooney wrote.
While casting the dispute as one over the quality of food services, Rooney acknowledged in an interview that Aramark's ongoing contract dispute with Unite Here Local 26 also played a role in his decision.
He said tensions between Aramark -- whose MCCA business is worth about $27 million a year -- and about 300 food-service workers has gotten so ugly that it's created a bad atmosphere at the two centers.
Aramark, which has been slapped with an unfair labor practice complaint by federal regulators, left no doubt in a statement yesterday that it thought it got the heave due to its battle with Unite Here.
"This current situation appears to be motivated by our present dispute with Local 26," said Aramark, which has served the authority for 14 years.
Rooney, who said the current contract with Philadelphia-based Aramark will be terminated by early next year, said the authority will either re-bid the concession contract -- or bring the food and beverage services "in house," similar to what the New England Patriots do at Gillette Stadium.
But Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, blasted that idea as potentially costing taxpayers if unions end up negotiating "fiscally irresponsible" contracts, similar to union agreements at the Massachusetts Turnpike and MBTA, both also quasi-independent government agencies.
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