Concessionaires at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus are upset over a directive from the university's Commercialisation Office over the sale of a UWI-branded bottled water, which is expected to come on full stream this month. The directive, the concessionaires say, will force them to remove all other current brands of bottled water they sell to their clientele and replace them with the UWI-branded water.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian, one affected concessionaire, who wished not to be identified for fair of being victimised, was shocked at the demand, and said that students will not be denied their rights as consumers to choose their "usual" brand of water for consumption. "From what I know, that particular brand of water is not popular among students and it will be unfair for them to be buying that water under the UWI brand," the businessman said.
The Guardian understands that the company which previously had the contract to provide UWI-branded water was SM Jaleel and Company Limited, which is located in Otaheite, South Oropouche.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between UWI and SM Jaleel on March 20, 2013 for the provision of that water to concessionaires at the St Augustine Campus. Present at that function from SM Jaleel were general manager, Head of Sales and Distribution Roger Bell and brand manager for Oasis Water Christopher Beepath.
The Oasis/UWI-branded water went on the shelves at UWI in February last year and was sold side by side with other brands of water. However, a new company, Crystal Water Limited, has been contracted to provide the water and under the new arrangement, concessionaires will allegedly only be allowed to sell the UWI-branded water provided by the company.
"Now, suddenly they want it to be the only water selling. Why? This must be so unfair to the students," the concessionaire said. The concessionaire explained that they have been given a three-week period to deplete their current stock and to re-stock with the UWI-branded water by May 18. The instructions were given via a memo issued by UWI's Commercialisation Office on April 23, 2015.
The UWI-branded water became available on Friday and will be centrally managed by the university. Concessionaires were asked to liaise directly with Central Stores to place orders for bottled water. All orders must specify the sizes, quantities and requested delivery dates. The bottled water sizes available are 350 ml and 650 ml at $18.85 and $32 per case respectively.
The concessionaire said they generally had no problem selling the UWI-branded water but believe they should be allowed to sell other brands alongside it, since all consumers like freedom of choice. He added that the move comes as tenants' rental fees were also being increased. Some of the concessionaires, the T&T Guardian understands, now have to pay either double or three times the amount they were paying, some at over $20,000 a month in rent.