Students are pushing Cardiff University to verify that its electronics hardware is ethically sourced.
Cardiff University students are pressuring their university to ensure modern slavery and sweatshops are excluded from the supply lines of its IT equipment.
The student activists aim to convince the university’s procurement department to sign up to Electronics Watch. This non-profit organisation helps companies protect workers’ rights in their electronics supply chains.
“Workers are getting very ill, some even have miscarriages due to the chemicals they are exposed to” says Hannah Redfearn, president of the People & Planet Society. “It’s also a gendered issue, a lot of these workers are women as they have smaller hands.”
There is a national network of People & Planet societies, all campaigning for social and environmental justice. The Cardiff branch were given endorsement by the Student Union at the AGM last week and will soon appeal directly to the university.
“It would cost £5,000 a year, that’s nothing for the university,” says Hannah. The fee would be paid by the university to help fund the overseas investigations of the Electronics Watch. However the current state of the university’s finances may make even this sum unfeasible.
“For the first time in many, many years we have reported a £24 million deficit,” says Mr Evans, the Head of Procurement for Cardiff University. “Money is a big issue for Cardiff University. Budgets have been cut year on year for the last couple of years.”
Mr Evans thinks senior management could find the money if they were presented with compelling evidence of the Electronics Watch’s credibility. “There’s no point throwing money at something where there’s no tangible proof of it delivering some benefit.”
Electronics Watch ensure accurate reporting by sourcing information directly from workers. According to the organisation, “this is the only method that can produce accurate results. Only workers know what is happening on their floors.”
Research by the Electronics Watch found that poor ventilation and high temperatures were causing fainting and even deaths in Chinese sweatshops. They also observed that workers’ mental health is ignored despite up to 20% of electronics suppliers having experienced incidents of suicide.
For the People & Planet society, transparency is the first step towards change and a subscription to the Electronics Watch achieves that. As part of their Sweatshop Free Campaign they are petitioning both students and university lecturers on the issue.
Hannah says “If that doesn’t work the campaign will have to escalate further with more actions.”
They currently have more than 400 signatures but want to achieve at least 600 before bringing their case to the university. If you would like to sign the petition please go to the following link: