Students’ Unions rally against the NUS over Coca-Cola boycott

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On the Monday the 20th of July, the first meeting of the National Union of Students (NUS) National Executive Committee (NEC)  was met with an open letter from Students’ Unions calling for members to vote against a boycott of Coca-Cola.

The open letter signed by over 50 Students’ Unions and over 150 Students’ Unions Officer called on NUS NEC to reject Motion 11 entitled “Proper Implementation of BDS – a commitment to boycotting Coca Cola Enterprises”.

The open letter, released by the University of Bath Students’ Union President Jordan Kenny, called for NEC to reject the motion, citing that the motion was there to “play politics” and to “undermine the national President”.

The motion, if passed, would resulted in Students’ Unions prevented from buying Coca-Cola products from the NUS Purchasing Consortium (NUSSL).

Coca-Cola is one of the companies targeted by BDS supporters, a movement created to put pressure on companies who conduct business within Israel. The movement aims to challenge the Israeli presence in areas they consider rightfully belonging to Palestinians.

This comes after the NUS awards ceremony in Bolton had received sponsorship from Coca-Cola which resulted in several full time NUS officers boycotting the event with a protest outside, citing that it goes against the current Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) policy within NUS. This resulted in NUS NEC passing a motion giving the NUS National President a censure.

Mr Kenny has stated that Motion 11 does not represent the views of the national student body stating the “NUS must be responsible to Students’ Unions, it needs to be re-active, inspirational, dynamic, forward thinking and innovative, it needs to provide solutions to issues and support Students’ Unions when things go wrong.”

“Most of all though, NUS must be representative, and today NEC let down the 600 plus Students’ Unions in the UK by not only making the decisions it did, but by conducting itself in the way which was played out this afternoon. Grass roots activism is really hard nationally, and I will openly defend every single Officer I led to sign the open letter this week because it made a really important point.”

In his full statement, Mr Kenny claims efforts to  defend students who voted for the Conservative Party during the General Election were met with laughter.

However, the Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts have criticised the “bizarre, self-aggrandising statement” claiming that “[Mr.] Kenny does not represent our views to the NUS NEC, and we do not believe that Bath SU had a mandate from students to issue the letter in question.”

They accuse Mr Kenny of hypocrisy for failing to further democratise the University of Bath Students’ Union and for ignoring the student body.

Motion 11 did not get debated in the end due to time running out, however the motion will be discussed and voted on via email.

In June, the NEC to approve a boycott of Israel by 19 votes for, 12 against, with three abstentions, and condemned its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

For more information on the motions submitted to NEC click here.

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Tommy Parker is Editor-in-Chief (2016/17) and former Students' Union Community Officer (2014/15). He writes about gaming, equality issues and the University of Bath.

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