Mary Cahalliane reports on moves in the teachers unions
Mary is a leading member of the INTO and was at its national conference in April 2004, from where she sent us this report.
At INTO Northern Conference a motion calling for a boycott of Coca Cola was narrowly defeated. The usual arguments of the ICTU doesn't support the boycott therefore we follow the ICTU line was trotted out to the Northern membership. Notwithstanding that the motion was defeated however we did ask and got support for a proposal that Coca Cola not sponser INTO congress this year in light of the international boycott. Coca Cola have been sponsering INTO congress for over six years and the propaganda and hold they have on schools in the republic of Ireland is phenomenal. School trips to the Naas bottling plant are very popular.
On arriving at Congress in Tralee however we found that not only was the Coca Cola stand there promoting their evil product but the organising committee of congress hadn't been informed of the Northern Conference motion.
I promptly set about making hand made posters calling for the stall to be removed and a boycott of Coca Cola in support of Colombian trade unionists and I was almost immediatly joined by 10 others when they saw me making the posters. We then had a petition drawn up which most delegates were signing. It was amusing watching the Coca Cola man scrabbling around tearing our posters down as we were putting them up.
We finally intervened on the Congress floor and halted business and had such an impact that the General Secretary himself was forced to make a statement on the issue. This then prompted the Chief Executive of Coca Cola Mr Alfie Leydon to issue a statement saying that Coca Cola respected human rights in Colombia and elsewhere. The amount of publicity generated in newspapers in the republic by our intervention was quite amazing. From the RTE newsrooms to Talkback on Radio Ulster the issue of the day was Coca Cola.
I'd say we can confidently predict that Coca Cola will not be at next years INTO congress.
We then held a fringe meeting and agreed to form a group opposed to multinationals in schools. Particularly global giants like Coca Cola, McDonalds, Shell and Esso. All companies with appalling human rights and environmental records that are using an underfunded education system to market their produce.
Overall amazing publicity for the boycott Coca Cola campaign. The following day the TUI passed a motion at its conference calling for the boycott of coke.