After a four-year campaign, the University of East Anglia has affiliated to the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC).
The WRC is a labour-monitoring organisation that looks at the supply chains for universities’ garment procurement. It currently has over 175 University affiliates worldwide. The WRC conducts independent investigations in factories, reporting on working conditions and passing along the information to universities. Large-scale catastrophes such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse have brought the working conditions for those who often have no other choice into the limelight. This means there will now be more transparency regarding where UEA garments are made and under what conditions.
The university can now use its new information to put pressure on those companies which still use sweatshops and lobby to improve working conditions.
Over the years, on campus activity has included lobbying the university and a near-naked protest in the square (pictured below), which was organised by People and Planet, all aiming to put pressure on the university.
Chris Jarvis, Campaigns and Democracy Officer at the Union of UEA Students, spoke to Concrete about his enthusiasm regarding the new contract. He said: “Three years ago, I marched through campus wearing nothing but a cardboard box with 60 other students to stand in solidarity with garment workers in the Global South. This was part of a mass campaign that has spanned four years to pressure the university to go sweatshop free.
“I’m thrilled that UEA has taken this step and has affiliated to the WRC, which allows us to clean up our supply chains and ensure workers’ rights are entrenched into the University’s procurement!”.
The university will now be working to ensure its code of conduct meets the WRC requirements at every level.