STUDENTS in UCD will be asked to vote on whether to overturn the boycott on Coca-Cola products in all Students’ Union shops, it was confirmed tonight, Tuesday 16th February.
The confirmation came after the Union’s Council voted to hold a referendum asking students whether they wished to uphold the current boycott, which was instituted in 2003 after two college-wide ballots.
The ballot must be held within two to four weeks of tonight’s meeting – meaning that the referendum will take place alongside the Students’ Union’s annual sabbatical elections, which take place across the University in two weeks’ time, on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th March.
The motion to hold the referendum reviewing the decision was proposed by Gary Redmond, Students’ Union President, who noted that the vast majority of the Union’s current membership were not members of the Union when the original boycott was approved seven years ago, and called for the boycott to be reconsidered and decided upon “in the court of public opinion”.
The motion was opposed by class rep and former SU Women’s Officer, Isobel O’Connor, who proposed that the motion be deferred to a later Council meeting – meaning that the referendum, if called, would be delayed until after the mid-term break. O’Connor claimed that the decision to hold the ballot alongside the sabbatical elections was a deliberate tactic on the part of the current officers to stifle a full and open debate on the issue, while many class reps would be distracted by campaigning for the elections.
The ballot was comprehensively passed by 47 votes to 6. Voters in favour included all five of the current sabbatical officers, as well as sole Presidential candidate Paul Lynam.
The Coca-Cola Boycott was introduced in 2003 in response to claims that Coke’s Columbian operations were complicit in the paramilitary murders of several of its staff who were active in the trade union SINALTRAINAL. UCD Students’ Union was the first institution in the world to institute such a boycott; other students’ unions, including that in Trinity College, and the National Union of Students in the UK, have since instituted similar boycotts.
Elsewhere in the meeting, a motion calling for a preferendum on whether students would support a mandatory health insurance contribution or a universal €40 annual levy in contribution to the Student Health Service, intended to replace the current model of pay-per-visit funding for the service, was deferred until a council meeting to be held in the last week of March. If called, a preferendum on the issue would be held alongside the Union’s executive elections in the first week of April.