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27 November 2010 | Adam Leach
Oxford University students have been shedding their clothes in protest at the unethical purchasing done in some of the country’s academic institutions.
This protest and others were organised in support of ‘The International Week of Action’ called by human rights campaign groups People & Planet and War On Want to pressure universities to sign up to the student-founded Worker Rights Consortium (WRC).
The WRC is an independent labour rights monitoring organisation that focuses on factories that produce clothes for academic institutions.
To promote the cause, a number of Student Unions opted to hold more creative types of protest. At Oxford they stripped naked to demonstrate they would rather wear nothing than clothes tarnished by unfair labour conditions. Protesters at UEA performed a play to raise awareness. Other institutions petitioned university administrators.
Beth Titchborne, an anti-sweatshop campaigner for People & Planet, said: “It’s amazing to see the wave of student activity campaigning for workers’ rights. Universities spend £8 billion a year on everyday goods, so they have the power to make a real difference.”
With support from more than 175 colleges in North America, this week’s protests in the UK were designed to build more global support for the consortium. As a result, Birmingham University became the first institution in the country to sign up to the WRC with others expected to follow suit.
Thousands of students have also signed, ‘10,000 Voices for Human Rights’, a petition against unethical buying.