01/05/2013 11:58 BST | Updated 02/05/2013 10:49 BST

UCLU Officer Accuses Students Of 'Scabbing' For Organising Starbucks Macmillan Cancer Charity Event On May Day

Ruairidh Ferguson
Students have been called scabs for using Starbucks coffee in their Macmillan cancer charity event

A student union officer has accused his fellow students of "scabbing" by hosting a Macmillan Cancer charity event for which Starbucks provided free coffee.

Edwin Clifford-Coupe called for University College London (UCL) to reject using Starbucks at the fundraiser, which was taking place on May Day, due to the coffee company's tax arrangements.

In a blog published on the UCL union (UCLU) website, Clifford-Coupe, the education and campaigns officer at UCL, wrote: "Volunteering your time to raise money for charity and help your fellow students is good; allowing a corporation to cynically get on board so as to advertise to students, while it apparently cannot accord its staff a paid lunch break, is scabbing, and you should stop that.

"Reject Starbucks’ offer, and I will come and join you."

Edwin Clifford-Coupe's bio on the UCLU website

The event was originally set up to provide coffee for students affected by UCLU's decision to close its cafes in honour of May Day.

Organiser of the charity event Louisa Townson told The Huffington Post UK: "Following the announcement that UCLU would close its facilities for international labour day, I took the initiative to run a coffee morning for a charity very close to my heart, Macmillan Cancer Support.

"Organisation was manic and revolved around asking any cafes for donations. Many couldn't. Starbucks, however, offered to filtered coffee. In my mind, good coffee sells - which meant more money for Macmillan, so of course I accepted!

"If UCLU had bothered to ask me before labelling me a scab, they would know:

A) That I asked other cafes, including independents, for donations

B) That no donation was given on the condition of "cynical" requests for promotion (that was my own advertising, to try and raise more money)

And C) There was other coffee on offer! But as it was, they never once contacted me and never once offered to "stand with me" before Starbucks' donation.

"I find it incredible that my own union can label me with such a heinous term without even looking into the event properly. Events like these are exactly what UCLU should encourage.

"I'm proud of what we have achieved today - over £650 we raised today will go a long way for a charity that got my family through one of the worst periods of our lives. That is what matters."

Clifford-Coupe told HuffPost UK: "I made statements about Starbucks’s poor ethical history in relation to workers’ rights and corporation tax.

"My point of view is that using Starbucks coffee unfortunately and unnecessarily undermines the good work that the charity stall did this morning to raise money for a vital charity. I was hoping through the blog post to persuade them to not use Starbucks coffee."

The event on Facebook, which has around 230 people attending, was inundated with offers to bake cakes for the fundraiser - however UCLU "refused" to donate coffee cups.

The Macmillan Cancer charity event at UCL

In retaliation to Clifford-Coupe's blog, Townsend tweeted: "It’s not like any @UCLU sabbs offered any help before SBX donated (only YESTERDAY): dont play the I’ll stand by you if you ditch SBX when you never offered to stand by me in the first place.

"At no point did I make my event or its planning political. It was @UCLU who decided to poop politics on a good will charity event."

She continued: "Beyond the incredible help of the non-elected full time staff, who were wonderful (your VSU is amazing), NO-ONE from the elected @uclu offices got in touch to support.

"It would have been nice if ANY of you @uclu had spoken to me about it all first, before launching a student wide statement slandering the event. Aggressive much? If you had emailed, you’d have a little more insight and we could have avoiding this unpleasantness."

"Sincerely, The girl organising an apolitical charity event you just made highly political."

Ruairidh Ferguson, a UCL student told HuffPost UK: "I think it's outrageous that the union has tried to politicise the event. I don't think we're 'scabbing' by accepting a donation from Starbucks. What matters is this money is going to those cancer patients and their families who need it most. "

A Starbucks spokesperson said: "We’re sorry that some students have chosen to boycott the charity event we’re supporting today. We have listened to our customers and are making a number of changes in our business to ensure we pay corporation tax in the UK."

A Macmillan Cancer Support Spokesperson added: "As with all fundraising efforts, we are extremely grateful to the students at UCL for arranging a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support.

"Without fundraising events like this Macmillan could not provide vital services to people affected by cancer which help ensure that no one has to face cancer alone.”