Sweatshop Free campaign reveals major London universities are still not affiliated with Electronics Watch

The Sweatshop Free campaign, run by the UK-wide organization People and Planet, is a grassroots student action network that aims to get universities across the UK to become fully affiliated with Electronics Watch.

Data from the Sweatshop Free campaign shows that all universities in Scotland and over 20 universities within London, including Goldsmiths and SOAS, are already full members of the London University Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) which also affiliates them to Electronics Watch. 

However, in a recent interview with London Student, Ella Wilkinson, the Sweatshop Free Campaign Coordinator, revealed that most major universities in London like King’s College London (KCL) and UCL are members of the Southern University Purchasing Consortium (SPUC). This means that they are not linked with Electronics Watch.

Wilkinson further added, “Some universities may use the confusion surrounding purchasing consortiums and Electronics Watch affiliation to deter students from running a Sweatshop Free campaign on campus – they may claim to already be affiliated, when in fact they are not.”

An Electronic Watch (EW) spokesperson said, “EW contract terms that enable workers’ human rights monitoring and protection are only operationalised for direct affiliates or members of LUPC and other purchasing consortia with full membership to EW.”

“Sometimes, universities that are not affiliated to EW directly or through LUPC will say that they are covered by EW affiliation benefits because they use framework agreement contracts that contain EW contract terms.” This just becomes an easy way for universities to evade responsibility.

Why affiliate to Electronics Watch?

A Sweatshop Free campaign at KCL has already been launched by Molly Robson but no action on the part of the university to affiliate themselves with Electronics Watch has been taken. 

All of the electronics bought by universities are made in sweatshops by workers under horrible working conditions. Most of the working sweatshops is also precarious.  By affiliating with Electronics Watch, universities can fund the support the divestment of sweatshops in technological industries.

Wilkinson advises students who want to start sweatshop free campaigns to not be afraid of taking non-violent direct action against the university.

“Once your university sees that you’re serious about your demands, and they can’t just fob you off until you graduate, they’ll soon come clean about their REAL position and you can go from there. People & Planet can provide support and resources for students interested in running a Sweatshop Free campaign, and this includes advice about how and when to take direct action.”

There will also be an Action Against Samsung campaign to stand in solidarity with Samsung factory workers on 25-26 October.

Students who are interested in starting their own campaigns can get in touch with Wilkinson at sweatshopfree@peopleandplanet.org for help getting the right resources and creating a concrete action plan. 

Editor at London Student

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