By Steve Coyne
Over 1,000 students and staff turned out on the lawn of MacEwan Student Center to protest the loss of nearly 300 jobs in the planned outsourcing of University of Calgary Food Services to Chartwells, an American company.
“Most students are studying and are not necessarily aware of what is going on, but the turnout was still good,” said Nancy Ritchie, vice-chair of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 52. “The Students’ Union as well as the Graduate Students’ Association have been behind us and some students were even in the picket line. Students should be concerned because these support services contribute to the quality of the learning environment.”
The information picket, organized by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Tue., Mar. 8, included speeches, a brief march and free hamburgers. Union leaders stressed the negative impact on students and claimed Chartwell’s has a history of poor service and bad treatment of employees at other universities.
“We want to highlight how important these jobs are to students, the employees and their families,” said Dan MacLennan, President of AUPE. “We also want to highlight what a poor decision [U of C administrators] are making.”
Mike McAdam, U of C Vice-President of Finance and Services stressed that the decision to outsource stands.
McAdam said outsourcing would improve the quality of service.
“There will be physical changes,” he said. “Chartwells has invested a lot of capital into improvements to the dining centre. There will also be new types of businesses on campus, such as franchises. What was a food services snack shop might become a franchised Tim Horton’s.”
Glenda Clarke, a Food Services supervisor and employee for 17 years, also emphasized the cost outsourcing will have on international students.
“Some students are allowed to work only on campus,” noted Clarke. “We have students who have worked with us for four, five years–as long as they were students here. They use Food Services to pay their way through school.”
McAdam defended Chartwells, citing a thorough pre-evaluation process.
“When we issued the [request for proposals] to potential providers, a point-score was awarded based upon how well they would treat our workers,” he said. “Chartwells did very well. It isn’t a well known fact, but the starting wage that Chartwells offers is actually higher than that in place now.”
Clarke expressed frustration that the administration had not been flexible, adding that she had attempted to take measures of her own.
“I started a petition to start a wage cut, and most of our employees were willing to sign, but we never even had a chance to bring this forward,” she said.
There is no stipulation in the agreement requiring Chartwells to rehire current employees.