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LabourStart Forced to Close Website After Campaign Against Home Care Employer

Eric Lee’s LabourStart is an internet organizational tool for Britain’s unions. It has been more than a resource, it has been responsible for launching successful campaigns against employers and govts around the world who abuse workers and/or their unions. Barnet Unison, a website run by a local of the English union, explains.

To those of you unfamiliar with this organistion they provide information of campaigns across the world. Often they are exposing organisations/ governments who may have murdered, tortured , imprisoned Trade Union activists for going about their business, something which we all take for granted in this country. As with the Fremantle campaign, they will have a standard email detailing the issue and request readers to send the email off to the Head of the Organisation or Government.

By mobilizing union memberships around the world through its widespread newsletter to target specific injustices, LabourStart has been able to swamp offending employers and govt agencies or ministers with thousands of emails from all over the globe protesting anti-union or anti-worker activities. It has succeeded in getting trade union leaders released from jails, helped international unions win job actions, and supported trade unions in some of the most brutal countries on the planet.

Here, as Barnet Unison said, is the shocker: in all that time, they have never been threatened by anyone they went up against, not by military juntas or dictators or the cruelest and most vicious of employers.

Until now. And it’s coming from a British employer called Fremantle, not a Third World despot.

Privatization of previously govt functions and agencies came to Britain with Thatcher and grew under Poodle Blair as the UK’s Labour party followed Bill Clinton and the DLC’s lead in appropriating conservative positions and inserting them into a supposedly liberal political organization. Five years ago, The Poodle privatized Britain’s home care agencies (they call it “care home”), handing the contract to a so-called “non-profit” corporation called Fremantle. I’ll let Eric summarize what happened next.

On 1 April 2007 Fremantle Trust cut low paid care workers pay by up to 30%. The workers were told — “accept these terms or be sacked”! The members involved in the dispute provide residential and day care to the elderly and vulnerable residents in Barnet’s old peoples’ homes, in north London. Fremantle Trust is a not-for-profit company that took over care home contracts five years ago. The cuts include lower wages, increased hours, no sick pay, shorter holidays and reduced payment for working unsocial hours. Even pensions to which contributions have been made during the workers’ service are to be dramatically cut by more than one third. In response to these attacks our members voted to take strike action. Care workers need to be properly trained, decently paid and most importantly, valued members of society. This is an all too familiar story of privatisation, where companies pledge to keep delivering the same service but under-cut the in-house provision by attacking the conditions of the workforce.

(emphasis added)

Eric began an email campaign, urging his mailing list to send messages to Fremantle’s CEO, Carol Sawyers, expressing disappointment with the company’s treatment of its workers and urging it rescind the cuts. In the first 3 days, Sawyer’s inbox was flooded with over 5000 emails. Eric again, from his newsletter last week:

The reaction of the company was swift: On Friday afternoon, they fired off an email message to me threatening LabourStart with legal action, accusing us of “libel”. (As you may know, English libel laws are biased against the defendant, and are used by corporations to attempt to suppress dissent.)

A couple of days later, Fremantle got even more aggressive, and sacked Unison rep Andrew Rogers (pictured).

Andrew Rogers, Unison rep sacked by Fremantle this week This bullying behavior is, I am told, typical of how this company works. They’ve asked us to stop this campaign, to stop saying negative things about them, and to stop sending them email protest messages.

Eric’s response was predictable: step up the campaign. After his newsletter notified his members of the threat, 8000 more emails poured into Fremantle. What happened next was a first.

[O]n Thursday, in an unprecedented move, the employer (Fremantle Trust) contacted our internet service provider and demanded that they shut down the campaign or else face a lawsuit themselves.

We were contacted by the legal department of the internet service provider and told that we had until noon on Friday to close down the campaign or else the entire LabourStart site would be shut down.

We worked very hard over those 24 hours to attempt to get our provider to back down, and had the full support of Unison (Britain’s giant public sector union, whose members are at the center of the dispute) but were not successful in doing this before the noon deadline on Friday.

As a result, at 11:59 on Friday we were compelled to shut down the campaigns.

But not for long. The internet is still much harder to control than other forms of media.

But — we instantly revived the campaign in nine languages on a different server, in a different country, with a new name that reflects our feeling at this time.

The new site is called “We will not be silenced!” and is located, appropriately enough, at http://www.wewillnotbesilenced.org

Eric simply moved his site to an overseas server to prevent Sawyers’ attack on a new provider if he used a British ISP, and the campaign continues.

If you click the link, you’ll be directed to a page with a form letter you can simply sign and sent or re-write in your own words if you feel strongly enough. I urge you to do so. The global corporatocracy is a jungle virus – whatever slimy anti-union, anti-worker bullying succeeds will spread through the entire network. If most of Wal-mart’s skanky corporate behavior has been slow to be adopted by other corps in the US, it’s only because they’ve been caught so often and lost so many battles that their reputation is in tatters. And even at that, a number of chains have still appropriated wholesale illegal techniques like time-shaving and demanding workers put in time for no pay as secret corporate policies passed down verbally to managers with instructions to make sure workers don’t find out about upper management’s involvement.

Don’t let Fremantle get away with this bullshit. If you do, it could come to your company next.

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