Coke controversy

Coke exclusivity contract to end by 2012

The Cold Beverage Exclusivity contract has given Queen’s $5.8 million since 2000 and grants Coke exclusive rights to sell on campus.
The Cold Beverage Exclusivity contract has given Queen’s $5.8 million since 2000 and grants Coke exclusive rights to sell on campus.

After 12 years dominating the Queen’s beverage market, Coca-Cola’s exclusivity contract with the University will soon be coming to an end.

The Cold Beverage Exclusivity Fund gives Coke the exclusive right to sell their products in the vending machines, AMS services, cafeterias and other food outlets on campus. In return, Queen’s has received $5.8 million from Coke over the 12 years of the contract.

Coca-Cola has over 3,300 varieties of beverages worldwide, including 23 varieties of water; most notable on campus are Dasani, Glaceau Vitamin Water and SmartWater.

AMS President Safiah Chowdhury said the Cold Beverage Steering Committee was created several years ago to investigate and explore the options of other cold beverage vendors on campus. She said this committee was also in charge of deciding how the money from Coke would be allocated.

“$1 million has been [given out] to student organizations and $4 million has been allocated to the Queen’s Centre,” Chowdhury, ArtSci ’11, said, adding that the remaining money has been used for things like obtaining equipment for Stauffer Library.

Chowdhury said while the exclusivity contract ends in September 2012, negotiations about a possible re-signing of the contract will take place next January, and a final decision will be made by March 2012 by next year’s AMS executive. Coke products will remain on campus until September 2012.

The exclusivity contract has faced much resistance since it was signed in 2000 and the issue has become a hot topic for all incoming AMS executive teams.

In 2005, Queen’s University Against Killer Coke was formed by students who were upset with Coca-Cola’s alleged human rights abuses. The group aimed to ensure that the University did not resign the exclusivity contract with Coke in 2010.

However, last year it was announced that the exclusivity contract would be forcibly extended until 2012. Chowdhury said that while sales of Coca-Cola products exceeded in all other respects, vending machine targets were lower than the contract required, meeting only 65 per cent of our target.

AMS Social Issues Commissioner Daniella Dávila is among those against the exclusivity contract. She said that it’s vital the administration joins students in lobbying against the corporation.

“Coke has industry set up all through South America, but in Colombia particularly, workers have wanted to unionize. Coke has hired hitmen to kill the union leaders, this has been a trend,” Dávila, ArtSci ’11, said, adding that the working conditions in the industry are also deplorable.

“The men and women who work there don’t receive the payment they deserve, and they don’t work in conditions that are adequate and humane,” Dávila said.

After these human rights abuses were brought to her attention last year, Dávila said she discussed the Social Issues Commission’s (SIC) mandate with her deputies. In the past, the SIC has applied for and received money from Coca-Cola grants, but Dávila said that before she finishes her position, she wants to establish a precedent for the SIC.

“[My team] and I are thinking of writing a document stating our stance on the Coke exclusivity contract. It’s about understanding the mandate that we have and need to uphold,” she said.

Coca-Cola currently has exclusivity contracts with several other Canadian universities. Dávila said that many other student governments have spoken out against the company, and that recently McMaster University didn’t renew the exclusivity contract because of the human rights allegations raised.

“What we need to do now is try to follow the lead from other universities … signing an exclusivity contract doesn’t leave students any choice. If I knew the history of Coke I wouldn’t buy anything that was a Coke product,” Dávila said.

Bruce Griffiths, director of housing and hospitality services at Queen’s, said that there’s a lot of information online that both supports and refutes the claims against Coke’s human rights abuse allegations.

“Queen’s asked Coke to respond to the allegations. Coke posted statements and responses on its website. These concerns continue to be raised,” Griffiths told the Journal via email. “The procurement process for the next Cold Beverage Committee will include discussions with various groups across campus that will no doubt include this issue.”

Griffiths said that at this point he’s unsure whether the University will resign with Coke but that there will be a full Request for Proposal process first.

“This means that Coke and any other company that could deliver the required services can submit a proposal and be evaluated.”

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