Students’ Union class representatives will meet tonight to discuss the possibility of holding a referendum advocating the implementation of a mandatory health insurance scheme for which would cover the UCD health centre.
Proposals have been put forward to introduce a health insurance premium, up to a maximum of €100 on all students, which would be paid at the beginning of term. The premium would also cover travel and dental insurance for the year and would see the end to per-visit fees for the Student Health Service. It is understood that, should the referendum be approved and subsequently carried, one of the major insurance companies would be contracted to provide the insurance cover for all students. Medical Card holders would be offered a refund under the scheme.
The proposals will be heard at an emergency convening of SU Council, which will also hear a motion to hold a referendum overturning the boycotts on Coca-Cola and Nestlé products. If Council votes to approve the proposals, the referenda will be held alongside the SU’s sabbatical elections in two weeks time.
Representatives of an SU boycott review committee, class reps Justin Brayden and Maggie O’Connor, will explain their findings on the relevance and effectiveness of the Coca-cola and Nestlé boycotts at the meeting tonight.
Members of council are expected to re-examine the reasons why Coca-Cola and Nestlé were initially boycotted, and will then decide whether these reasons still stand for today’s students. It is expected that they will be referencing a briefing document, seen by The University Observer, which reports on the allegations made against the two companies.
The initial Coca-Cola boycott, which was introduced after two separate referenda, was implemented throughout all SU outlets in 2003. A second referendum, to overturn the boycott, was held shortly after the first following objections over the campaigning of the pro-boycott side in the original referendum. The falling of the subsequent referendum meant that no Coca-Cola products could be bought or sold in SU run outlets. The Nestlé boycott was introduced in 1989.
The document also explains that Nestlé boycotts began in the United States as early as 1977 in response to accusations that the Swiss multinational had pursued unethical methods of promotion for an unsafe powdered baby formula for mothers in third world countries.
UCD Students’ Union was the first institution in the world to introduce a boycott of all Coca-Cola products, following allegations that the company was mistreating workers and union members at their main bottling plant in Colombia. According to the SU briefing document, a 2004 New York City fact-finding delegation found there to have been 179 major human rights violations, including nine murders. Other allegations include child labour violations in El Salvador and alleged use of unhealthy water in India.
If the referendum goes ahead, at least 15 per cent of the SU membership – approximately 2800 students – must vote in the referendum in order for quorum to be reached and its result to be declared valid.
The Council meeting takes place in the Astra Hall in the Student Centre tonight at 6pm, and may also discuss a proposal to hold a referendum on a student health insurance scheme.