canteens and cafeterias where do we stand?

canteens and cafeterias where do we stand?

It has been over a year since the catering service was brought in-house. What evaluation can we make on this matter?

We observe an improvement in the quality of meals compared to the period when external companies managed the canteens, which is commendable. However, it appears to have had the unintended consequence of reducing services in Commission buildings in Brussels from 13 to 6. This reduction is even more pronounced in cafeterias, as we all observe in our surroundings (from 42 to 23).

Currently, the number of cafeterias remains significantly limited compared to the pre-pandemic situation. While there have been some openings this year, we are still far from the ideal scenario. Moreover, in certain neighborhoods (such as Mérode or Geneva, for example), where there is no catering service for the staff, having a cafeteria that offers a more extensive service than just “coffee” with a variety of sandwiches, salads, and soups is more than justified.

The administration points out that, despite the canteens working well in terms of personnel flow (the number of people using them), the same cannot be said for cafeterias. A substantial portion of cafeterias operates “at a loss” due to the limited number of users.

TAO-The Independents believes that cafeterias are much more than just a place to buy sandwiches or have coffee; they are a crucial service in any large organization. It is a necessary social space, allowing colleagues to meet, take a break outside the workspace, see other colleagues from different units, and interact more informally. At a time when the administration rightly emphasizes the importance of staff mental health through initiatives like “Mental Health Week 2023,” including activities such as bringing one’s dog to the office, not recognizing the importance of cafeterias in buildings is a contradiction.

The role of the Commission is not to “do business” with catering or maintain a balance, as is often said, but to ensure that its staff can be in the best mental and physical conditions to perform their tasks effectively. This is also in its best interest.

Therefore, we reiterate what TAO had previously proposed, namely, a change of course in the management of this issue, including:

  • The immediate reopening of at least 1 cafeteria per Directorate-General, or in some cases, for DGs nearby, 1 cafeteria for every 1,000 employees.

  • More socially conscious pricing with a reduction in prices for staff with lower salaries.

TAO will continue to closely monitor this issue and will persist in reminding our administration, as necessary as it may be, that catering is a fundamental aspect of health and well-being for its staff.