Students at SOAS are campaigning against universities awarding contracts to Sodexo - a multinational human rights violator. We reproduce an open letter sent to the CEO of the company by SOAS Student Union.
Dear Mr Bellon,
This summer, SOAS' food service contract with a controversial multinational corporation will expire, and the Students' Union will ensure the company cannot return to our school until it resolves a series of human rights violations overseas.
The SOAS Students' Union stands together with student organizations in the United States to resolve persistent human rights violations by Sodexo, a food services contractor at many of our universities and students' unions in the United Kingdom. Based on independent and third-party reports from Human Rights Watch, the TransAfrica Forum, a Commission of Inquiry on Colombia, and United Students Against Sweatshops, we are deeply concerned about this corporation's pattern of noncompliance with the very United Nations and International Labour Organization standards to which Sodexo itself has publicly committed.
The Students’ Union is proud to say that Sodexo will lose its contract with SOAS this August. This decision came after the Students' Union stood against a renewal of Sodexo's contract when it was learned that Sodexo profited through contracts at Guantanamo Bay, detention centres for asylum-seekers, and US military bases in Afghanistan.
SOAS students and staff ran a high profile Sod Sodexo campaign, similar to those happening on the other side of the Atlantic this spring. Students staged occupations of the Brunei Suite (Sodexo’s base on campus) to emphasize how strongly we felt that Sodexo had no place at our university. A number of strategies were adopted, including an all-out boycott of the canteen whilst strategically instituting catering requirements to ensure that Sodexo could no longer provide an adequate service.
We commend students in the United Students who have, in recent weeks, been forced to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to urge their own universities to terminate contracts with Sodexo worth many millions in U.S. dollars. We express our support especially to those fifty-six students who have been arrested in the last month during a wave of sit-ins at the offices of university presidents who have rejected students' demand to drop Sodexo.
Today we declare our intention to do everything within our power to ensure Sodexo will be excluded from the contractual pool for any future contract at SOAS until and unless the corporation takes the following basic steps to prove it is serious about compliance with international labour standards, as has been communicated previously to Sodexo by United Students Against Sweatshops, various organisations of Sodexo workers and other advocates:
1. Re-hire Carina Mieses and the other Sodexo workers fired in the Dominican Republic after leading efforts to demand unpaid wages and forming the union SitrasodexoDO.
2. Obey the order of the Colombian Labor Ministry and begin bargaining in good faith with Sodexo workers and their union Sinaltrainal.
3. Publicly agree to recognize, without delay, workers' unions through whichever legal method workers choose to pursue, which in the United States must include the majority sign-up or "card check" method.
4. End sub-poverty wages for Sodexo workers at U.S. universities by raising wages to a level such that a full-time worker would learn no less than the Federal Poverty Threshold for a family of four, and publicly commit to working towards paying a "living wage" such that full-time workers can afford the local costs of basic necessities.
We are now encouraging all Students’ Unions in the UK to ensure that Sodexo does not continue to operate on our campuses until said demands are met.
Sebilio Uribe, Jasper Kain and Milaad Rajai (SOAS Students’ Union co-Presidents)
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