The AU President Tom Moore has come under scrutiny this week for his decision to source Roses merchandise from the controversial clothing supplier Fruit of the Loom.
Moore decided to use the supplier, which has come under fire in the past for poor working conditions and the use of sweatshops, despite the fact that the Union Code states that YUSU will promote ‘sound ethical choice’ of products and ‘will purchase, where practical, from suppliers graded highly by the NUSSL Environment and Ethics Committee.’
Tom Moore justified his decision to purchase the merchandise from Fruit of the Loom by claiming that “the order for the shirts was made weeks ago.
“Ordering through ‘fairtrade’ suppliers, which breaches commercial contractual agreements made by YUSU, would mean they simply would not have been delivered on time and they would have cost 60% more to buy.”
Moore also added that the company ADM, through which the SU sources its merchandise, and which deals with Fruit of the Loom, are ecologically sustainable and check the trading standards of the companies they source from. He added “You may also want to ask the YUSU environment and ethics officers as they have checked everything through with this company.”
However, when contacted, the current Environment and Ethics Officers, Tom Williams and Tom Langley, claimed they “weren’t aware that the Roses merchandise had been sourced from Fruit of the Loom” and said they were ”more than a little dismayed to have this brought to our attention – the decision, had we been aware of it, would certainly not have been supported.”
Charlotte Bonner, the previous Environment and Ethics Officer said she “had not been involved in the decision making or even consulted.”
Langley and Williams told Nouse “part of the problem is that until the Ethical Merchandise motion was finally passed at the last UGM members of the union weren’t obliged to consult on merchandise, and so it would have been fully within the AU’s power to order from any company they liked without us being aware of it. The situation is now very different, and from this point on Union merchandise should only be purchased from companies (and initially sourced from manufacturers) that we approve, and I very much hope that this will be the last occurence of its kind.”
Fruit of the Loom have been condemned by the International Textile Garments and Leather Workers Federation as having “a history of virulent anti-union activity” as well as subjecting employees to long hours, “poverty pay” and dangerous conditions reminiscent of a Victorian mill rather than a modern transnational company.
Derwent College decided to unilaterally abandon contracts with the company as long ago as 2005.
The SU has already been caught up in another ethical clothing gaffe earlier this year over the t-shirts for the Viking Raid II, where Fruit of the Loom was the supplier despite objections from Environment Council as well as staff and students. The same excuse was used then as now; that the merchandise would not have arrived in time for the event had it been ordered from a fair trade supplier.
Roses is pre-scheduled to take place every year, arguably giving the current AU adequate time to prepare an order with a manufacturer with a better record on workers’ rights.
With the passing of the recent UGM motion it is hoped that this will be the last time YUSU will order merchandise from a supplier not considered ethical by the NUSSL.