Privatized U of C Food Services?

By Emily Senger

Food lovers unite! Smash Hit Subs, Benny’s, the Dining Centre, and all other Campus Food Services currently operated by the University of Calgary are up for bidding and could be privatized by next summer.

In early August, Student Academic Services held a series of focus groups to get input on the present services offered by Campus Food Services. During the hour long sessions, eight groups of eight students, faculty and staff members, were asked for their opinion on the quality of the services currently offered by Food Services.

"The results will be used for companies that are going to bid and by Food Services this year as part of ongoing development," said Associate Vice-President Student Affairs Dr. Peggy Patterson.

Dr. Patterson stressed that the move to privatize is not yet final. Bidding will close at the end of September, at which time the results will be announced. Companies bidding are Arimark, which operates at the University of Alberta, Sodhexo, which operates at Mount Royal College, and Chart Wells.

If Food Services is outsourced, the future of current union staff is uncertain.

"The companies would have to determine if they would keep current staff or not," said Dr. Patterson. "We may keep our current employees but the service may be managed differently, or it may not."

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 52 Chair Albi Sole does not foresee any gains than can be achieved through privatization of Food Services.

"It is our view that there is no saving to the university by contracting out staff," said Sole. "I don’t believe any private contract can get staff for less money and maintain the same level of service. There have in fact been significant problems when food services were privatized on other campuses.

Sole cited University Health Services as an example of unsuccessful privitization. He also commented that the outsourcing would leave many international students without a place to work.

According to SU President Bryan West, the SU could purchase Food Services.
"We’re looking to do more fran-chising and less leasing," he said.

Though West would not verify that the SU has indeed made a bid on any food services, he did say that they would be highly interested in making a bid on the venues in MSC.

Calgary is one of the few major universities that runs food services through central university administration, said West, noting most major universities and colleges in Canada have been privatized.

Any major changes will not occur until May 2005.

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