The MSA and Wholefoods: A Timeline
This is a work in progress – we hope you can contribute to this timeline of Wholefoods history. Please return as this is just a start. Email email@example.com with your significant Wholefoods dates and events and clarifications and corrections.
1968: The Monash Association of Students (MAS) is created.
1971: A critical seed is planted in terms of on-campus student activism. This seed, being ‘The Pantry’, is a student-run, fruit and veg stall operating from underneath the stairs in the Union Building (known today as Campus Centre). It is the conception of The Pantry that leads to the birth of Wholefoods in the years to come.
1977: Wholefoods is established and operates under the Monash University Union.
Under the Union, it is acknowledged that Wholefoods is a cheap food service provider to students. Because of this, an agreement is established whereby any annual losses incurred by Wholefoods will be covered by Union Catering profits. Similarly, any profits made by Wholefoods will go back to the Union. Given there is no absolute break-even requirement and losses are incurred rather than food prices being raised, for the 20 years to follow under the Union, Wholefoods is able to operate with reasonable measures of stability and security. Fundamental to its existence, Wholefoods is also able to maintain its service as a cheap food provider to students.
Wholefoods starts out with one cook serving one choice of organic vegetarian food made from unrefined/unprocessed foods. Organic foods, bought in bulk, were available for purchase.
From Lot’s Wife, April 25, 1977:
The restaurant has many aims and aspirations as well as providing a good wholesome meal. Energy conservation and efficiency is stressed and it is hoped that we can create more awareness of the enormous wastage that occurs both in the food manufacturing process and in every-day energy usage. The tables and chairs were made from fallen timber rather than bought from a large funiture company and the food is bought directly from a bio-organic grower. The meals available are all meatless which is also conserving energy, as meat is higher on the food chain than crops and vegetables and the production of meat results in enormous energy loss. If all the grazing land was used for vegetable production and crops, a lot less people would go hungry.
Meals are served entirely by volunteer staff and the restaurant is managed by a group of keen volunteers. This decreases the cost of production and means that the workers enjoy what they are doing rather than merely working to support themselves. All volunteers are given a free meal for one hours work. Only fresh wholesome food is used in the preparation of meals and it is never preheated over long periods of time as this process destroys the nutritive value of the food.
Since the restaurant began it has made good progress and the meals should get even better soon when our own cook returns. Remember, to avoid queues it’s best not to come at 1.00 and the more volunteers there are, the quicker the meals can be served. So If you could spare an hour (or more) a week, to help on a regular basis, you would be very welcome. Just go and ask someone who is serving there about it. Help is needed filling out orders and serving people, and it is quite enjoyable and interesting to see how the Pantry runs.
The atmosphere in the Restaurant is more relaxing than in the rest of the union, and the bean bags provide a place for tired people to rest. We intend to decorate the walls with craftwork and want to encourage people with such interests to display their work in the restaurant. Many ideas have been suggested to promote the attractive ways of life that are all part of the philosophy behind such a restaurant. These include barter days where people come and exchange their goods, cooking demonstrations and folk evenings.
The Wholefoods space was originally divided up into different sections along the wall shared with the John Medley library. Various student and university services had their offices inside the space. At one stage the cafe backed on to the wall now shared with the John Medley.
The Tertiary (Amendment) Act (1994), also known as Voluntary Student Unionism (known as the Kennett/Victorian model), was passed by the Victorian parliament in 1994 and came in to effect in 1995. Due to the change in the act, the Monash Association of Students (MAS) joined together with other student bodies and services (such as clubs & societies) to form what became the Monash Student Association (MSA) which began in 1995. Wholefoods did not become part of the MSA until shortly after.
June 1997: Wholefoods is transferred from the Union to the MSA. This occurs under the proviso that any decision that would change the nature of Wholefoods, needs to be passed by 2/3rd majority of attending Monash Student Board (equivalent to Monash Student Council) members.
November 1997: Over the summer break, the Monash Student Board abolishes volunteers in Wholefoods as well as the Collective. Wholefoods presents the MSB with a petition signed by over 800 students to hold a Student General Meeting before any changes are made to the nature of Wholefoods, the Collective and the volunteer system. The MSB ignores this petition and goes ahead with the changes anyway (during the exam period when students weren’t around). The volunteer system & the collective are both abolished.
Friends of Wholefoods (FoW) is created. It is made up of concerned students (patrons, volunteers and Collective members). Their vision is “to reinstate the original aims that were instituted when the restaurant was set up 23 years ago” (The Whole Story, 1998)
FoW presents MSB board members with Wholefoods and the MSA: A Viable Management Strategy outlining some problems Wholefoods has been having and presenting viable solutions.
1998: Friends of Wholefoods produces the booklet: The Whole Story. This booklet “seeks to detail the history of Wholefoods and the recent changes to its structure and operations, and demonstrate how these changes have undermined the essence of what was once a unique space for direct student participation” (The Whole Story, 1998). It also provides a list of ways for students who felt compelled by the issue to help out.
1999: A new MSA administration restores the Wholefoods Collective & Volunteer System
Sept 1999: Monash students voted in favour of an MSA referendum question to insert section 19 of the MSA constitution [link to constitution].
2000: The MSA undergoes a major staffing restructure after the resignation of the former CEO. The new staffing structure places Wholefoods under the same manager as the Short Courses Centre. The manager works cooperatively and in the spirit of mutual respect with the Wholefoods Collective.
The Goods & Services Tax (GST) comes in to effect on July 1, 2000 and Wholefoods had to adjust prices accordingly. Wholefoods/ the MSA from then on has had to collect the GST revenue and pass it on the government
2001-2003: Wholefoods pays $18,000 annually for occupancy of the space to MSA Central to be paid to the University, which the MSA never pays. MSA successfully lobbies the University to cancel all occupancy fees for all MSA departments. Figures from these years are incorrectly used to show Wholefoods made a loss during this time.
2001: A Wholefoods ‘retreat’/Collective meeting takes place January 9-10, 2001 in Staughton Vale.
Wholefoods has two coordinators, accountable to the Wholefoods Collective.
2002: Wholefoods has two coordinators, accountable to the Wholefoods Collective.
2003: Wholefoods has a Kitchen Coordinator, a Cafe Coordinator and sees the introduction of a Functions/Volunteers Coordinator.
Wholefoods and the MSA Welfare department begin Free Food Mondays, providing free dinners to students.
MSA brings food vans onto campus to protest against MONYX – the corporate business for catering and services on campus – and to boycott the University’s food outlets. “Basically, our food is greasy, expensive, sometimes causes food-poisoning and is only available at limited times during the day. The students and staff at Clayton Campus have been stuck with food outlets that are managed by a company that takes $280 from each of us [in amenities fees], and yet is content to offer low quality, highly priced food”. Wholefoods participates in and supports the boycott of MONYX food outlets.
Grocery sub-group forms.
Wholefoods staff/volunteers end of year camp visits the Grampians for relaxation and community building.
2004: Wholefoods Collective camp at a Collective member’s holiday house in Leongatha. Long days of decisions – tequila nights.
Collective (working collaboratively with the MSA) employs a Kitchen Coordinator, Cafe Coordinator, Functions/Volunteer Coordinator, and (volunteer) Grocery Coordinator.
Wholefoods Grocery opens selling organic bulk items cheaply.
High levels of student activism at Monash. Students occupy three separate Monash University buildings over (in part) increased fees, “education for all, not just the rich” being the chant of the year. Wholefoods provides food and support for occupiers, many of whom were volunteers and collective members.
MSA Transport Department’s Bikery and Wholefoods cater breakfasts.
Wholefoods Art Gallery begins.
John Howard decisively wins 2004 Federal Election. First conversations of VSU [link on vsu] and its potential effects on Wholefoods and the MSA.
2005: Wholefoods Grocery and Publicity Coordinators employed by Collective/MSA in addition to Kitchen, Cafe, Functions/Volunteer Coordinators.
Monash hosts Students of Sustainability Conference and Wholefoods feeds up to 500 students. Wholefoods and SOS organisers paint their silhouettes as chalkboards/community boards on the far wall of Wholefoods.
In response to VSU, activists from SOS, Wholefoods and the left on campus occupy the student bar for six months, successfully fighting against its closure, gaining it for the MSA. Wholefoods supports occupiers with in-kind support.
2006: Change in Monash Student Council (MSC) Executive administration and the first years of Howard’s Voluntary Student Unionism.
Functions and Volunteers Coordinators move to separate roles. Other Coordinators include Kitchen, Cafe, Grocery and Publicity.
During 2006, the new MSC Executive removes the right of the Wholefoods Collective to participate in negotiating the Wholefoods Budget. The Executive slashes the Wholefoods staffing budget, without consultation, by 20% in order to ‘lower costs’.
The Wholefoods Collective organises a petition to have a referendum to alter the MSA Constitution in order to protect Wholefoods from further MSA attacks, which would recognise the entire Wholefoods Constitution and redefine Wholefoods as a ‘Division’ of the MSA and therefore more rights. The Executive claims that some of the students who signed the petition were not in fact students, and holds up the process of checking student numbers until after the MSA election of that year, effectively preventing the student petition from being acted upon.
At the end of 2006 the MSA undergoes a major restructure due to the impact of Voluntary Student Unionism which whilst passed by federal parliament in Dec 2005 does not begin to take effect at Monash until 2007. Under the previous management structure of 2000-2006, Wholefoods coordinators were placed under the same manager as the Short Courses centre. From 2007, Wholefoods staff fall directly under the management of the new MSA Executive Manager.
2007: MSC Executive take control of meal pricing from the Collective claiming that prices are too low. At the same time, they impose the MSA Community Card discount of 20% on Wholefoods. MSA promises to pay Wholefoods the equivalent of what was lost on Community Card – payments are not received. The MSA Treasurer threatens to sack all staff and prevent entry to volunteers who refuse to charge the unwarranted higher prices. Wholefoods turnover drops substantially thanks to higher meal prices and associated lower sales.
2008: Low staff morale, high coordinator, staff and volunteer turnover, higher food costs, even higher imposed prices and the Global Financial Crisis leads to a loss. High level of complaints about food prices. MSA – Wholefoods relations at an all-time low. Wholefoods Collective still has power to hire its staff and coordinators, but the Collective does not have control over pricing. MSA Executive continues to demand an increase in Wholefoods pries, since they believe that raising prices will increase turnover.
Financial Loss: $6,116
2009: In late 2009, the Executive decides that a Wholefoods Coordinator Restructure will prevent Wholefoods making a loss. The Executive claims that this cost is too high, and the ‘chain of command’ non-existent. As a result, the Executive decides to replace the 6 student Coordinators with 1 full-time non-student manager, however the manager retains the title of “Coordinator”. During the summer break of 2009/10, the Wholefoods Collective negotiates with the Executive and comes to an agreement to merge the 6 roles into 3. However, in 2010 the Executive breaks their promise and replaces the 3 remaining Coordinators with 1 non-student manager, inexperienced in Wholefoods.
Financial Loss: $25,795
The MSA administration scraps the Volunteer Coordinator, Publicity Coordinator and Functions Coordinator positions. These positions are seen as no longer ‘economically viable’. The remaining Coordinators are left overburdened with work due to inadequate staffing levels.
Nearly $2,000 is spent on a compulsory training day for new staff, while qualified and experience older staff and volunteers are not hired.
Wholefoods staff are misclassified under a new Award (Restaurant Industry Award), as effectively bar staff, instead of ‘kitchen attendants’. Wholefoods staff are also casualised, taking away rights to sick leave, long service leave, annual leave etc. These rights are replaced with 25% casual loading on top of the staff base pay rate. Staffing costs therefore increase y at least 25%.
The Cafe Coordinator position is abolished by MSA management. Tthe MSA refuses to discuss the departure of the Cafe Coordinator and the circumstances around the issue. A group of concerned Collective members and community members start a campaign and a student petition with the slogan “Give us back our Cafe Coordinator”. The campaign is abandoned following threats from MSA management to sack any staff member who is connected with the petition in any way, and threatens legal action against students involved in the campaign.
The new, sole ‘Restaurant Coordinator’ is paid as a permanent, full-time position year round, including the period of time (26 weeks per year) that Wholefoods is closed, costing Wholefoods roughly $15,000 more per year on coordinators.
Wholefoods and MSA cease to work cooperatively to employ Wholefoods staff. Formerly, the Wholefoods Collective and an MSA manager would work together to employ staff best suited for the peculiarities of Wholefoods employment. Collective members are no longer allowed to participate on the hiring panel for Wholefoods staff – further stripping Collective of any control it has over hiring.
Financial Loss: $29,808
Under MSC Executive management, there is one manager in Wholefoods, nominally called the “Restaurant Coordinator”. Later this is replaced with the $55K/annum “Wholefoods Manager” and the $100K/annum “Operations Manager” (formerly the bar manager, and now in charge of Sir John’s Bar, the Bikery and Wholefoods) without any consultation with the Collective.
Wholefoods Collective seeks assistance from the MSA Volunteer Officer to help coordinate the volunteers at Wholefoods due to the Volunteer Coordinator position being dissolved by the MSA two years previously in 2009. MSA Volunteer Officer took on duties of Volunteer coordination.
Monash Student Council (5/5/11) finds the arduous journey to the ATM too difficult and passes $11,900 for a “point of sale” (eftpos) machine in Wholefoods.
Collective has its first meeting (15/11/11) with Matthew Parker – the new MSA Operations Manager.
Financial Loss: $30,955
25/03: MSA Treasurer presents the confidential 2011 MSA budget, including the Wholefoods budget, which aims to break even (MSC 4/11, p. 12).
15/07: MSA Executive spends $2000 on a “Review of Wholefoods lay-out” (MSC 11/11, p. 21). The Executive is made up of Imogen Sturni, Jenna Amos, Sheldon Oski, Freya Logan and Arthur Rawlinson.
17/10: The MSA employs an Executive Officer on a salary level well surpassing any previous staff member. They perform a similiar function to a CEO. Their pay rate is far above the previous highest paid manager at $106 000, with the employment package worth between $140 000 and $180 000 (MSC 15/11, p. 15 and Edition 6 Lot’s Wife 2011, p. 5)
7/11: Executive Officer of the MSA contacts Tony Schindler Food Service Consulting and Jacquie Miceli Interior Design and acquires a quote for “REDESIGN OF WHOLEFOODS FLOOR SPACE” costing $8,580 in total (17/11, p. 26).
16/11: The Monash Student Council (17/11, pp. 4, 26) authorises the commissioning of the above two consultants (7/11) on the Wholefoods re-design for up to $7,800. In the minutes 2012 MSA President-elect Esther Hood explains there are “issues with OH&S in the Wholefoods kitchen,” which are unspecified, and do not elaborate on why the redesign is of the whole floor space. It is asked whether the Wholefoods Collective was consulted, which is answered affirmatively. The Wholefoods Collective had not been contacted about the redesign. The resulting document(s) remain secret.
20/12: During discussions in the Monash Student Council about the Monash Student Association’s 2012 confidential budget (19/11, p. 3), it is revealed consultations on the Wholefoods budget included only the MSA Operations Manager and the Finance Department.
Coordinators no longer exist at Wholefoods as artifice. MSA Operations Manager, Wholefoods Manager, the MSA Executive Officer and the MSC Executive (majority controlled by the MSA President, Treasurer and Secretary), are the sole decision making bodies for operational issues. Collective is now regarded as a token, non-essential, non-productive, decorative role of Directional Advisery [sic] Committee of Wholefoods, p. 4. In the words of MSA President Esther Hood, the Wholefoods Collective are now only consultants for “look, feel and culture of the Wholefoods space” [16/08].
30/1: Wholefoods Volunteers are put in to the MSA “Volunteering Reward Program“. Where you could once volunteer for 1 hour and receive 1 meal voucher, you now have to volunteer for, we believe, 13 hours to receive 1 meal voucher. Volunteering effectively ends in Wholefoods, outside working bees and the Wholefoods grocery.
2/2: Monash Student Council (02/02, p. 3) passes $10,000 to buy new tables for Wholefoods rather than repair the old hard wood tables that have been around since Wholefoods began in the 1970s. Collective is neglected in the “look” and “feel” decision making process also. OH&S is used as the justification, as it is possible to recieve splinters from the tables when the tables are in need of another sanding and cost of lacquer.
16/2: Wholefoods Collective members attend an MSC and object to this unfair scheme which reduces the volunteer meal ticket value by 95%.
17/2: The next day, MSC Executive inform Wholefoods that volunteering in the kitchen and café is unlawful and that Wholefoods volunteers are no longer allowed to engage in “operationally essential” work, i.e. all tasks in the kitchen and café. This directive was allegedly based on legal advice procured by the MSC Executive.
20/2. Members of the Wholefoods Collective arrive early to promote Wholefoods during Orientation week. They discover the former Restaurant Co-Ordinator has been meeting with the Executive and the Wholefoods computers have been taken, with the excuse that there is an IT shortage. The Restaurant Co-Ordinator does not return. Despite extensive preparations, Wholefoods cannot open during O-Week.
22/2. O-Week restrictions continue, with volunteers unable to cut up brownies for the Wholefoods stall in the kitchen because it is for staff only.
27/2. A new temporary Wholefoods Manager is appointed, who was only told about the position through applying for a management job at Sir John’s Bar.
12/3: It is discovered that this directive was based on alleged legal advice that contradicted the latest external legal advice The legal advice presented to members of the Wholefoods Collective on 12 March, was dated 7 March, 19 days after the directive was made by the MSC Executive.
Wholefoods Collective believes there is no legal constraint on the type of work that volunteers can perform. We believe that volunteers should be properly trained in tasks and OH&S, properly rostered and so on. This was previously the role of a Volunteers Coordinator.
13/3: Executive commits to re-introducing volunteers in the kitchen and cafe as soon as possible, following the creation of documents on roles and responsibilities that are legally sound.
02/4: It is revealed at a Wholefoods Collective that the Wholefoods budget does not aim to break even this year – a decision that is unconstitutional [section 19. (6)].
19/4: Wholefoods Manager expresses support for the petition to turn Wholefoods into a steakhouse on the Wholefoods facebook page.
16/5: Two Wholefoods Collective members volunteer to become Wholefoods Volunteers Co-officers, deciding to take a pro-active stance on operational changes at Wholefoods.
A Friends of Wholefoods member notices that the newly arrived six bright red waiting room couches – that have displaced older couches – have costed the MSA $1200 on an attached invoice.
25/5: It is discovered that non-vegetarian, (and potentially non-kosher, non-halal) products have been introduced into the cafe. These include products with rennet and gelatin.
29/5: A Collective member sends an email to Wholefoods Restaurant Manager asking to promote the Wholefoods Winter Camp to staff over the staff email list. The Manager declines the request and says that it would be a breach of privacy.
“The reason that I am not able is due to the privacy legislation, as the emails were provided to me for the purpose of employment and Wholefoods employment messages.”
In past, this staff e-list was used to promote such relevant events as Students of Sustainability (SOS).
04/6: Exams begin, and Wholefoods moves to a more cafe style management with made to order food and ‘customers’ assigned numbers to recieve their food.
14/06: Wholefoods Collective members inform the Restaurant Manager that the newly introduced eggs are against Wholefoods’ ethos to serve products not containing eggs for ethical and allergy reasons. The response is that the issue is an “operational matter,” meaning outside Collective’s control.
26/6: First day after the end of exams and Wholefoods remains open for the first time in recent years outside of semester and exam periods, with little patronage. The MSA must do this because otherwise the 55k salary of the Wholefoods Manager and 45k salary of the Wholefoods Chef would go to waste.
10/7: Wholefoods Collective publishes their response to the re-design as an open letter and reject being uninvolved in the terms of the re-design.
Friends of Wholefoods launch its blog and Facebook page.
11/7: Wholefoods Manager appoints himself as Occupational Health and Safety Representative, in violation of the MSA’s Occupational Health and Safety policy and related Laws, where there must be an election.
4.6.2: Employees have a right to ask Management permission to elect Health and Safety Representatives for their particular service/region.
12/7: A concerned student not in Friends of Wholefoods or the Wholefoods Collective this year graffities Wholefoods. The extent of the graffiti is some small black writing saying “Fuck the MSA”, “Another great commercial development” and crosses over Wholefoods logos. The student is identified by management during the act, and asked to leave. Later, Wholefoods operations receives a phone call saying the Wholefoods logo legally belongs to the student who designed it, now unhappy at what it is being used to represent.
13/7: Notices are placed on the locked entrances to Wholefoods explaining it is shut indefinitely.
18/7: The MSA releases a statement saying the graffiti constituted ‘heavy vandalism’, the police were called and Wholefoods staff have been bullied and harassed, meaning Wholefoods cannot open in Week 1 of semester, the busiest week.
19/7: Friends of Wholefoods pressures rank and file Go! members to open the Wholefoods space for week 1 of semester. The MSA President complies at the Monash Student Council meeting and suggests the Wholefoods Manager and Chef have had to take leave, so Wholefoods cannot open.
20/7: MSA President asks for the Monash Student Council Executive and Wholefoods Collective to begin mediation over their ‘acrimonious relationship’, asking the Collective to guarantee they will not harass Wholefoods staff.
23/7-27/7: Week 1: Friends of Wholefoods launches its stall in Wholefoods, and begins discussing its campaign with the wider student community. Furthermore, creative banners are made and displayed, tea is offered and food is shared, while Wholefoods operations remain shut. It becomes clear throughout the week that the Wholefoods manager was working in the Wholefoods office and towards the end of the week that the Wholefoods chef was now working in Sir John’s Bar. Volunteer run Free Food Mondays goes ahead on the Monday, using Wholefoods to cook food without the Wholefoods Manager.
25/7: Wholefoods Collective replies to the MSA’s President and is open to mediation with important conditions including openness and a mutually agreed upon mediator, and rejects suggestions Collective has been involved in harassment.
30/7: Wholefoods operations restart, largely without the full time Wholefoods Manager, and Wholefoods Chef, both instead redeployed to Sir John’s Bar (but with the MSA President’s help for cash duties and with the part time Wholefoods Chef).
31/7: Friends of Wholefoods launches its paper petition for a Student General Meeting of the Monash Student Association with a motion to reanimate a collectively run Wholefoods restaurant.
MSA President writes back to the Wholefoods Collective, ignoring the Wholefoods Collective’s conditions and stating a mediator has been appointed for a meeting on the 02/08.
03/8: Wholefoods Collective consents to people trusted to participate in the first mediation on Monday 06/08.
06/8: A number of members of the Wholefoods Collective meet with the MSA Executive appointed mediator, who lacks experience in mediation with collectives.
08/8 -10/8: The Wholefoods Collective searches for and proposes an alternative mediator to the MSA President. This mediator has been selected because they have experience with an understanding of collectives and hierarchical organisations. The mediator proposes the 21st August for mediation. The mediator explains that the mediation will need to occur at a neutral venue and will take place from 9:30am-5pm. The Collective and the MSA accept this date.
08/8: Various contractors enter Wholefoods and install wires in the ceiling. A Wholefoods collective member asks one of the two contractors what they are doing. The contractor replies that the wires are for data cabling, but adds that they are not the ones who are installing security cameras.
08/8: Signatures for the Student General Meeting are well over 400 (some include staff and non-clayton students). The SGM was sent in to be motioned at the MSC meeting on the 9th August 2pm.
09/8: The Monash Student Council delay the Student General Meeting process for another two weeks on the grounds that there are privacy concerns with allowing the University Enrolments Officer to verify the student numbers of the student petitioners, even though all petitioners signed a statement allowing their enrolment details to be checked. Instead the MSC passed a motion that directed the MSA Executive Officer to ensure that “all the signatures are found to belong to students”, meaning that if even one staff member, or Monash student enrolled at another campus signed the petition, the entire petition becomes invalid. The delay also means that the SGM would be held after August, invalidating the entire petition, which asked for an SGM in August.
Following the refusal to allow the SGM on privacy grounds, the Chair of the MSC admitted that the MSA had in fact asked the University to place security cameras within Wholefoods, the initial network cables of which has already been installed, ostensibly to prevent ‘further vandalism’, harassment and bullying.
13/8: Three security cameras are installed in Wholefoods.
14/8: Sheldon Oski, a member of the student political ticket ‘Go!’, featuring on one of our previous reposts of Crikey, appropriates the Save Wholefoods campaign by registering ‘save wholefoods’ as an election ticket for the upcoming Monash Student Association elections (17/10-20/10). Sheldon Oski has never been involved in the Save Wholefoods campaign organised by the Friends of Wholefoods collective.