31 jobs in limbo as county discusses outsourcing the prison’s food service

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- More than two dozen jobs are in limbo as Shelby County considers outsourcing the prison's food service.

Commissioners will decide whether to extend a contract with Aramark Food Services, which already serves the jail.

WREG talked to worried employees who have no idea if they will get to keep their jobs.

The food service contract could impact 31 jobs inside the correctional facility. Friday, some of those employees came to meet with Shelby County Commissioners to talk about how pay and benefits could be impacted.

Lawrence Black has worked in food service at the Shelby County Corrections Center for almost 30 years. "I put three of my sons through school," he said. Now, he does not know if he will keep that job.

The prison currently provides its own food service, but the county is looking to save money. Bringing Aramark Food Service into the prison would cut costs by $1.7 million.

It also means all 31 employees will have to re-interview for their own jobs.

Commissioner Melvin Burgess told the employees at Friday's meeting, "We want to make sure that we're hearing from you, and you understand the options before we move on and try and decide what's best for this county."

Aramark agreed to hire up to 26 of the 31 workers. The others will be offered different jobs with the county. Many are skeptical of that deal, to say the least. "I wouldn't be willing to stay with a company that I know wouldn't keep me," Black said.

The contractor has offered to match the employee's current hourly rate and give them comparable benefits, but their pensions would be switched to Aramark's 401K plan.

While some commissioners seemed to like the idea, others, like Terry Roland, made it clear they would not support it. "Not only is it going to hurt you all, but it's also going to hurt local business," Roland told the employees. "That's got to be factored into this."

The proposed food service contract will go before committee on March 26. The full commission is expected to vote on it March 30.

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