Student group People and Planet have taken to protest outside the Students’ Union, in order to lobby the University to join workers’ rights organisation Electronic Watch.
Cardiff People and Planet society, which is part of a national student-led movement, congregated outside the Student’s Union on October 7th carrying banners and signs. Dressed in biohazard suits and wearing surgical masks, the group voiced their anger against forced student labour in university supply chains.
However when the group attempted to give a letter to University management, the People and Planet representative was refused entrance to the building due to security precautions undertaken within the building.
According to People and Planet treasurer Jack Pickering the group planned to enter the management building “either as a group or by sending in a representative to meet someone from the procurement department to deliver a letter.”
“Our representative was denied entry to the building by security.”
This was later explained by a University spokesperson who clarified that the McKenzie House which the group wished to enter is not a public building.
“For the safety of those working in the building, access is controlled by access cards. As such, the Porters Lodge is as far as unauthorised persons are able to go. Mail can be accepted via the Lodge, and the letter from People and Planet was accepted in this way,” they explained.
People and Planet now wish to organise a formal meeting with the procurement department in order to persuade the University in person to join Electronic Watch.
The meeting will form part of an ongoing relationship between People and Planet and the University, in which “several meetings’ have already taken place.”
Electronic Watch is an independent workers’ rights monitoring body for the public sector. The group consists of universities and other organisations using their contracts with suppliers to demand better conditions for workers in the supply chain.
In response to the group’s calls, the University have stated that much of the institute’s electronics are purchased through “purchasing frameworks” such as the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) which is already a member of Electronics watch and “other HE procurement consortia.”
A spokesperson continued: “The University believes that the improvements to worker’s rights that People & Planet and Electronics Watch are campaigning for, are best achieved at a consortia level.”
The group’s protest coincided with the UN International Day of Decent Work and was held to raise awareness towards the use of computers within University made by Chinese students as young as 15.
On October 5th, a report written by Electronics Watch and Dan Watch stated that students at Chinese schools and colleges are being made to work 12 hour days by their teachers for periods as long as five months to make computers and servers for some European universities.
This is in violation of both Chinese and International Organisation Conventions.
Jim Cranshaw, a campaigner from People & Planet said, “It’s truly shocking that students here in the UK are using computers and servers made by students as young as 15, forced to labour, in China.
“Students are calling on universities should use their contracts to insist that suppliers improve conditions by joining Electronics Watch, a workers rights monitoring organisations set up by NGOs for this purpose.”
This latest protest forms part of a larger series of criticisms that People and Planet have voiced against the University. Last year the society revealed that in 2014 Cardiff University invested £2.5 million in fossil fuels and non-renewable energy though figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request.