Coca-Cola products have returned to UCD campus for sale for the first time since 2003.
The products are still affected by UCDSU’s mandate to ban the sale of sugary drinks, which will be up for renewal at the next Student Union council meeting.
Coke and its associated products have been absent from the shelves since 2003, when a campus wide referendum banned the sale of Coca-Cola products, 57 votes deciding the outcome out of 3,199 unspoiled ballots. Following this ban, the entirety of UCD campus entered into an exclusivity deal with soft drink supply company Britvic, who represent and distribute drinks such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Nestea Iced Tea. The contract with Britvic was due to come to an end during 2020, but was extended until Thursday, September 8th, due to the pandemic. The Student Union’s own ban lapsed in 2011.
When speaking to the University Observer about the decision to reintroduce Coca-Cola products, UCDSU President Molly Greenough said “It's something that throughout my time in the union people have frequently asked, if we were allowed to sell Coca Cola products, so I do think many students are excited about that.”
The original banning of Coca-Cola was a controversial move at the time. The referendum was brought forward due to the alleged threatening, attack on, and murders of trade union members who worked in a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Columbia. Sintrainal, the union who brought forward the suit, alleged that the bottling companies, who worked to produce Coca-Cola products, hired members of a local far-right militia to intimidate and disempower workers at the Columbian plant. This action was taken as part of a global move towards a Coca-Cola boycott by multiple trade unions. However, local Irish unions such as SIPTU criticised the move by UCDSU to boycott the products, due to the risk it posed to jobs in the Irish bottling plants.
The referendum itself was also a cause for criticism, with complaints of voter suppression at the ballot boxes, with the “No” campaign claiming that hundreds of voters may have been refused the opportunity to vote on the day. Less than 48 hours later, an appeal of the vote was approved after the confirmation that approximately 4,000 voters had been disenfranchised due to an issue with the register of electors used on the day. The second referendum took place the following month and upheld the original ban.
When asked about the ethical concerns students may have about the reintroduction of Coca-Cola products on campus, Greenough said, “We would welcome any student’s concerns on that as [...] while we have introduced Coca Cola, we are super open to taking it out again if that’s what students decide. So, I would really welcome conversation with any student concerned about the Coca Cola, or the introduction of Coca Cola products, and would encourage them to approach a sabbatical officer, or potentially their college officer, and we can have a discussion about bringing forward a motion to council.”
If students are interested in bringing forward the issue to the Student Union, the first council of the year is due to take place on the 10th of October.