Chartwells: one year later

September marks the effective one-year anniversary of Chartwells Food Services at the University of Calgary. The takeover of campus food services by Chartwells was one of two privatization plans by the university in recent years and was met by heavy resistance from both student groups and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, citing the union job losses it would create. One year later, however, despite a continued boycott of all Chartwells locations by AUPE, many are the busiest places to buy food on campus.

“[Our first year was] very good,” said Chartwells senior director Jan Morel. “No problems at all. We got everything open on time. We renovated seven operations over last summer, and added one new operation. We hired 300 associates and got them all trained within the first couple weeks. That was pretty hairy, but we managed to get everything open on time.”

U of C vice president finance and services Mike McAdam agreed.

“It was a very significant change,” said McAdam. “Having said that, it has gone very well, it has been a very smooth transition. All in all, I think it’s been very positive. There are still some things left to do, but we’ve always had a multi-year plan for improvement.”

McAdam cited a survey done by Student Academic Services in which “improvement in the quality of food” was the number one answer students gave in response to being asked which change has benefited the university most.

“I was so impressed, it not even being a food survey, that was the answer the students responded to,” said McAdam. “I think it shows we’re on the right track.”

The Students’ Union is also largely pleased with Chartwells’ performance this past year.

“I certainly think it’s better food quality and better service as well than there was with Food Services,” said SU VP operations and finance Cody Wagner. “With Tim Hortons especially, students love the coffee and they line up.”

However, Wagner expressed concerns over Chartwells’ lack of interest in student opinion, specifically their plan not to renew Taco Time’s contract in MacEwan Student Centre.

“Chartwells has decided that Taco Time doesn’t make enough money, so they’ve decided not to renew their agreement with Taco Time,” said Wagner. “We’ve had Taco Time for about ten years now and our students really love it, but Chartwells has decided–without any input at all from students–that they won’t be renewing their lease with Taco Time. So that’s out and we’re not happy with it.”

AUPE also continues to be unhappy with Chartwells. Last year saw a union-wide boycott of Chartwells locations that continues today.

“The union is still in favour of the boycott and as a member of council we still, as a guideline, suggest that people continue to boycott Chartwells,” said AUPE Local 52 vice- chair Kim Ockwell. “We can’t force anyone to boycott, but we continue to say it’s a good idea.”

Despite this, Ockwell was quick to note there was a positive aspect to come out of the Chartwells privatization. The U of C board of governors passed a motion requiring AUPE to be involved in any discussion regarding the privatization of future campus services, a move Ockwell said helped during the Xerox privatization of Printing Services earlier this year.

“The university board of governors will now consult the AUPE whenever they look at any form of contracting out,” said Ockwell. “Prior to that they went ahead and contracted out and we dealt with the ramifications. Now they do have to consult with us, so it gives the union an opportunity to give our opinion.”

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