Letter to the University of Regina about Chartwells Food Service Contract

To: The University of Regina President, Student Affairs, and Supply Management   
(Dr. Vianne Timmons, John Smith, Bettina Walsh, Kimberly Mitchell, and Jim Woytuik)
University of Regina
3737 Wascana Pkwy,
Regina, SK S4S 0A2

In February of 2019, the University of Regina reported that they had declined to renew the contract with Chartwells Canada for the provision of food services on the University of Regina campus, and released a tender for these services. This decision came as a relief to many students who are dependent on the campus food system throughout the year. Under the previous contract with Chartwells Canada issues with appropriate food labeling, pest control, cost to students, availability of food services in off hours, and working conditions for food service employees have periodically come to the attention of the campus community. Unfortunately, these concerns have not been taken seriously by Chartwells Canada. It is therefore shocking that as a result of the tendering process the University of Regina has chosen Chartwells Canada to continue providing food services on our campus regardless of this record of past performance. We believe that this decision represents a serious risk to the reputation of our university, and the wellbeing of University of Regina Students.

The choice of food service provider is one which affects the health, safety, and standard of living of every University of Regina student, from those who live on campus and are required to purchase meal plans, to students who spend long hours working and studying on campus, to students who work in campus food services. As such, the needs of students must be of top concern for our university administration when making decisions about food service provision. The committee overseeing the selection process was given the opportunity to do this in meetings and interactions with several student groups who provided detailed and well-researched proposals for improving our campus food systems in the lead up to this decision. Based on the committee’s decision to re-contract Chartwells Canada for another five years, it does not appear that the work of these students and organizations was recognized or seriously considered.

We strongly urge the University of Regina to reconsider the proposed contract with Chartwells Canada, and to fully explore other, student-led, options for food service delivery on our campus.  Additionally, we demand that the selection metrics and reasoning behind this decision be made publicly available to students in the interest of transparency.

If Chartwells is to continue providing service on our campus the following issues MUST be addressed before a contract can be signed:

  1. Students who choose to or are required to purchase meal plans must have healthful and reliable after-hours options for meals on campus. This means extended hours of operation for Chartwells-run vendors, AND the option to use pre-purchased meal plans at other campus vendors like The Owl, Henderson’s, and Extreme Pita which already operate longer hours.
  2. Students employed in campus food services must be treated fairly in line with provincial labour standards. The University of Regina has stipulated that at least 10% of food service workers must be students, but the food service collective agreement includes an MOU which states that casual student employees can be paid an hourly wage 15% less than full or part time employees and are not eligible for additional employee benefits. This provision is exploitative, unjust, and disproportionately affects international students who rely on on-campus employment for income. Any contract with Chartwells Canada (or any other food service provider) must ensure that the 10% (or ideally more than 10%) of employees who are students are full or part time employees with regular hours and equitable pay and benefits.
  3. The affordability and quality of food on campus is essential to the over-all health of our campus community. The University of Regina must look out for students by implementing fair price guidelines for all food vendors on campus, and demanding that fresh whole food options be available to students at a reasonable price.
  4. Finally, any contract must protect students with specific cultural or health-related dietary needs and restrictions by implementing real consequences for unsafe food handling and labeling, as well as improved cultural competency training for food service staff working on our diverse campus. The World Health Organization states that the availability of culturally appropriate food is essential to food security. The repeated mislabelling of Halal and non-halal meats by Chartwells Canada vendors over the past several years is a severe violation of trust and a direct threat to the food security of University of Regina students. We need more than Chartwells Canada’s word that violations like this will not happen again. 

It is not too late for the University of Regina to look out for the students who live, work, and study on our campus and protect the university’s reputation as a safe and vibrant institution at which to study. The new contract with Chartwells Canada has not yet been ratified, and further negotiation or change in direction is still possible. Another contract with Chartwells Canada cannot be accepted without ensuring that the issues which led to the tendering process have been resolved to the satisfaction of students.

Sincerely;

Julian Wotherspoon
Outreach & Events Coordinator
Regina Public Interest Research Group

Co-signed by: UR Muslim Student Association, University of Regina Somali Student Association, Engineers Without Boarders Regina, URegina Student Food Working Group, and CUPE local 5791

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*If you are part of a campus group that would like to join the signing of this letter, please contact us!*

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