Referendum could see Coca-Cola and Nestlé products return to SU outlets
A REFERENDUM is to take place among UCD students to query the boycott held by the Students’ Union (SU) against Coca-Cola and Nestlé products. Students will be asked to vote on whether the SU should continue to boycott the products, refuse to sell them in SU shops and continue to reject advertising from the companies as they have been mandated to do since 2003.
The decision to bring a referendum on the issue was taken by a group of students who claim the boycott of these products is no longer relevant to students. A group spokesperson explained, “practically, none of the existing undergraduates voted to boycott these products. It was a past student body that voted it in. And now the issues have changed.”
The spokesperson commented that in light of new information about the alleged abuse of Columbian workers by Coca-Cola, which was the reason behind the boycott against Coca-Cola products, students no longer had any reason to insist on a ban of these products by the SU.
“The International Labour Organisation released a report in October saying Coca-Cola work practices in Columbia were of a high standard and those allegations, as far as they were concerned, weren’t true. If one was to present those fi ndings to the students, I am confi dent they would see sense and see that the boycott isn’t necessary.”
Of the initial referendum held in 2003, the spokesperson explained, “there was a lot of evidence at the time it was voted in, whether that was credible or not is open for debate.”
However, the proposal has been met angrily by SU Campaigns and Communications Offi cer, Dan O’Neill who criticised the timing of the referendum, saying that it would interfere with the SU’s campaign against the potential re-introduction of third-level education fees.
Mr O’Neill described the referendum as a “massive distraction” to the SU’s fi ght against third-level education fees, arguing that “it was really short-sighted of them to launch this on us now, when we’re at the cusp of fi ghting on one of the most important campaigns, which is the fi ght for free education for all”.
Despite his reservations about the timing of the referendum, Mr O’Neill expressed that he will campaign to uphold the boycott against Coca-Cola products being sold and advertised by the SU, adding that he will be “disappointed” if students voted to dissolve the ban.
The referendum will be held in tandem with executive council elections, which are scheduled to take place at the end of this month.
UCDSU was the first SU to boycott Coca-Cola products following allegations regarding the treatment of staff by the corporation. Nestlé products were banned from sale in SU shops in November 1994 following a World Health Organisation (WHO) statement that the use of powered milk products, promoted by the company, in countries where there is no clean water supply caused the death of up to one million infants per year.