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SchNEWS 247, Friday 11th February 2000

From Jo Makepeace <webmaster@schnews.org.uk>
Date Sat, 12 Feb 2000 07:13:38 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

This is SchNEWS, the weekly direct action newsletter published by Justice? in
Brighton, England.
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Drringg drringg! Press 3 for this week’s SchNEWS

Issue 247, Friday 11th February, 2000



"You feel like you are on a galley boat - being watched, answering calls
every 30 seconds, monitored and told off if there are mistakes"
Dougie Rafferty, (ex) Excell call centre worker

"I feel absolutely knackered like a total zombie, can’t be bothered
speaking to anyone, I go home and I just want to sleep"
Anonymous Excell call centre worker

They’ve been described as the 'modern day sweatshops' with 'battery hen'
working conditions. Yet one in fifty people now work in the them. Welcome
to the world of the Call Centre.

SchNEWS is used to hearing about dodgy companies but Arizona-based
multinational Excell multimedia LLC really takes the biscuit. They run two
call centres in Glasgow employing more than 600 operators who deal with
things like directory enquiries and 999. Starting their jobs on a pocket
bulging £9,000 a year, company documents show that the company aim for
operators to be on the phone for 97% of the time. This means staff must
answer the phone twice a minute for over seven hours a day, ask the manager
for a drink of water, and make up lost time at the end of a shift if they
spend too much time in the loo. And all the time closely monitored.

When Channel 4 spilled the beans on this bunch of dodgy bastards, they
uncovered one story of a man who had an epileptic fit while at work and was
taken to hospital after cutting his head. When his pay slip came through,
the company had deducted three hours for the time he spent in the hospital!
This then had a knock on affect on his attendance record, costing him more
than two hundred quid in lost wages.

Of course the firm don’t take criticism lying down and sacked Dougie
Rafferty, and have threatened one woman member of staff with 'facial
mapping' to prove that she was not the anonymous employee who dared to
criticise them on TV!

But surely with the new Trade Union laws Call Centres and the like aren’t
gonna get away with acting like latter day scrooges? Under the law if 50%
of staff get together and want to join a union then employees have an
obligation to recognise them. There’s just one small snag. As one former
Excell manager pointed out, thanks to massive turnover in staff, it’s
unlikely that there‘ll ever be the numbers needed to come to any agreement.
And while people try to organise or speak out against their work
conditions, they’ll just be shown the door. In other words, "don’t call us
we’ll call you."

Bunch of BT Balls!

British Telecom is the third largest company in the UK (after BP Amoco and
Glaxo Wellcome) and the fifth largest telecommunication company in the
world. Its last annual report in 1998 revealed £4.3 billion in profits, or
£136 a second, and they have operations in over 230 countries from
Indonesia to Eastern Europe.

Chief Executive Sir Peter Bonfield earns £2.53 million pounds a year, a pay
rise of over £1 million. SchNEWS wonders how he manages. In June 1999, 120
workers were sacked from their jobs at the Directory Inquiries call centre
in Stirling due to 'regrettable advancements in technology' (Daily Record
6/7/99). The following week Glasgow telemarketing phone operators had their

commission rates slashed from £4.50 an hour to £2.50 to boost profits and
attract more business investment. BT recruits the majority of its staff
from employment agencies like Manpower and Blue Arrow.

With a flexible workforce, no contracts, sick pay or holiday pay, BT is a
New Labour model of corporate modernity - putting profit before employment
rights. All BT telephone operators and Customer Service Advisors are
monitored and timed for the amount of calls taken in a shift. If employees
do not meet Call Handling Time targets of one call every 180 seconds, then
they are disciplined, refused overtime, and in some cases sacked. Calls are
routinely recorded and listened to from a remote call centre in Coventry,
where if an employee is caught swearing or hanging up they are immediately
sacked and escorted from the building.

* Got a gripe against call centres ' then why not share your story with



For smiling! At the last Shamrock monkey farm demo a lost-it cop was
pointing people out for the snatch squads. One bloke wound him up by
standing around doing nothing more sinister and life-threatening than
grinning. Not for long - "Grab him!" At the same demo someone was jumped by
the goons (not the funny ones) and thrown to the ground, resulting in a
shattered hip. He’s still waiting to see if he’ll need a hip replacement.


The company who took over when the passport agency was privatised have
told by MPs to stop pussy-footing around. Siemens Business Services, the
company at the heart of the passport fiasco which led to thousands of
people having their holidays ruined last summer, have announced a 33% rise
in the cost of a passport - due to their cock-ups.

The rise includes the cost of handing out umbrellas and luncheon vouchers
to people queueing in the pissing rain waiting for their passports. The
agency was privatised under the Private Finance Initiative, a dodgy scheme
which has been grasped enthusiastically by Blair’s grateful dead (see
SchNEWS 219). Passport costs have now risen from £21 to £28. Thanks a poxy

The new director of this company, Gary Pusey, who sneaked in though the
back cat flap and seems intent on milking us dry, has obviously pulled a
few strokes in his time. He purred "the company had already had £1.4
billion worth of public sector contracts - two of which, the passport
agency and immigration directorate, were in the dog house." OK! he didn’t
say dog house.

Poor old Sir David Omand, who only gets paid a measly £100,000 a year as
permanent secretary at the Home Office, told MPs the rise will go towards
recuperating some of the £12.6m lost in last summer’s fiasco. However, Home
Secretary Mr Jack 'the pancake' Straw, not normally known for his
involvement in catastrophes, insisted the increase was to fund the agency’s
£25m a year modernisation programme. Maybe he’d picked up his son’s wacky
backy that morning or was it Mo Mowlam’s?


Master Bates

While we’re on the subject of privatised goon shows, (SchNEWS 246 Big Mac
in Kids Takeaway) we should mention Rams Episcopal school in Hackney,
London. 3% of schools are judged by inspectors to be failing pupils, so
it’s quite ironic that Rams Episcopal, the first school taken over by a
private company, is to be closed and reopened under a new name due to it
being judged as.... failing! The teachers are now doing a thousand lines.



"The affair raises issues of economic imperialism. Want to chop down a
mountain in Yosemite? Not at any price. Want to destroy a beach in Maya
Bay? That’ll be $100,000 dollars plus deposit, whilst the leading man
pockets $20 million thank you very much."
Maya Bay International Alliance

Ever wondered what a tropical paradise looks like? Rupurt Murder’s new 20th

Century Fox film 'The Beach', directed by Andrew Macdonald and Danny Boyle,
obviously didn’t. They were slightly confused as far as the word ‘paradise’
was concerned, and thought it meant bulldozing beaches, pulling up
indigenous trees and single-handedly helping to destroy an eco-system.This
lot make the Benidorm lager louts look like Noddy in the land of Oz.

The usual fee for filming in a Thai National park is 1,000 baht, about $26,
but as Fox films handed over $108,000 which they termed a donation and an
additional deposit of 5 million baht, it was hardly a surprise they
received the green light.

This holiday romance took place at Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Thailand. However,
on visiting this area of National Park they discovered it was not their
definition of utopia, so, against the wishes of local people the film
makers chose to change the paradise into Hell by removing vital dune plants
and introducing palm trees. MacDonald then had the audacity to state
"everything is tip-top on Phi Phi Leh" even though the last monsoon washed
his make shift beach away.

Local people are now asking people to boycott the film, and on Wednesday at
the film premier in Leicester Square, activists from the Campaign for
Ethical Filmmaking gatecrashed proceedings. Donning Leonardo DiCaprio
masks, they were waved through police lines, under the cover of a stretched
limo and alighted to the screams of thousands of waiting fans! Screams
turned to laughter, though, as one penguin-suited activist held aloft a
Golden Bulldozer Award.

To add insult to injury, Leonardo DiCaprio is hosting the Earth day
celebrations in April on - you’ve guessed it - sustainable living. SchNEWS
suggests that instead of watching the film you read the original book by
Alex Garland. www.uq.edu.au/~pggredde/


As SchNEWS went to press, the protest camp at Gorse Wood, was being
evicted. In case you’ve forgotten, large areas of meadowland, woodland and
the environmentally sensitive Curry Hill are set to be destroyed to make
way for the A130 link road. This is no country lane we’re talking about
here, the proposed road is to be a six lane motorway.

The road is being financed by the Private Finance Iniative, and is
sponsored by Countryroute plc which is a consortium of roadbuilders Laing
and other contractors. Help is urgently needed, so ring 02082 994241 or
mobile 07957 915977 for more info, and get involved!

P.S - Can anyone tell us if this road is set to be part of the
Trans-European Network?

* The protest camp at Hockley is to be evicted any day now. Campaigners are
trying to stop 66 luxury homes being built (SchNEWS 243). Security have now
arrived and surrounded the site, and the waiting protestors could do with
more help. Arriving activists are advised to ring the camp mobile before
Contact 01702 206353 or site mobile 0831 717815 www.angelfire.com/mt/GBH


SchNEWS in brief

   * Stop Press!! The first action against the Terrorism Bill is in
     solidarity with an Italian anarchist who got 6 years and 8 months,
     under special terrorism laws, for allegedly sabotaging a building
     site, despite no evidence (SchNEWS 246). Meet 12 noon, outside the
     Italian Embassy (Bond Street Tube), Sat 19th Feb (changed from the
     23rd). Asilosquat@tiscalinet.it
   * Meeting to discuss the Terrorism Bill, Thurs 17th Feb at 6.30pm at the
     Bridge Hotel, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Contact Box 1TA, Newcastle Upon
     Tyne, NE99 1TA.
   * Protest Songs, an open mike night of protest songs against the
     Terrorism Bill. Wednesday 16th Feb, The Gladstone, Brighton. Call
     Sarah 01273 231374 if you are interested in playing
   * Demo against the far-right Freedom Party outside the Austrian Embassy
     on Sat, 19th February. 6:30pm outside Austrian Embassy, Belgrave
     Square, London (Hyde Park Corner tube).
   * Has anyone out there got photos of Travellers’ New Year’s Parties in

     Europe for inclusion in our next annual? If so send ‘em to SchNEWS
     with yer name and address on the back if you want them returned, also
     write down where they were taken
   * Anyone in Brighton who is fluent in French and English (!) and can
     spare some time to do some translating, give SchNEWS a call, we’d
     really appreciate your help
   * The Nestle 16 (SchNEWS 242) are up in court on Feb 22nd at Halifax
     Magistrates Court, Harrison Road, Halifax at 9.30am. A demo and
     solidarity actions are planned. Tel: 01268 682820



If you want some full frontal naked radio, tune into 106.5 FM in Brighton
this Sunday for Radio 4A STOP THE SANCTIONS


Passengers on the number 15 Stagecoach bus in London this week took a ride
with a difference when the bus suddenly met a woman holding a banner,
ordering the vehicle to ‘Stop in the name of Love!’. Stagecoach were
targeted as they are part-financing the anti section 28 campaign. As the
bus drew to a halt, members of the Lesbian Avengers group commenced their
mission - hanging banners stating ‘Repeal Section 28’ , distributing
leaflets to the passengers and painting the bus bright pink! Lesbian
Avengers, 0181 374 9885


On February 3rd the U’wa tribe in Colombia’s call for international support
was answered by people around the world, as one of Occidential Petroleum
(Oxy) biggest shareholder’s Fidelity Investments was targetted in 34 cities
across the globe.

The U’wa tribe of Colombia have been fighting against Oxy extracting oil
from their land for a few years. Even Shell pulled out of the project
citing human rights concerns. In Colombia oil brings militarisation and
environmental destruction. Since November 1999 over 250 people U’wa been
occupying a proposed oil drilling site (SchNEWS 244). On 19th January
thousands of Columbian miltary invaded U’wa territory and evicted the tribe
from the test site. Meanwhile Fidelity have hardly done their PR any
favours by announing that they invest in 'companies with the highest
likelihood of stock-price appreciation.... Our portfolio managers are not
trained to make investment decisions in order to fulfill social or
political objectives.'

Meanwhile Oxy are trying to silence critics by requesting a temporary
restraining order against groups supporting the tribe. www.amazonwatch.org

Inside SchNEWS

City Police spotters nabbed Kuldip Bajwa while demonstrating outside the
Labour Party conference in Bournemouth due to his likeness to someone
caught on video hitting a police riot shield with a placard pole at June
18. Judge Barthurst Norman said too much leniency had previously been shown
to J18 reprobates and sentenced Kuldip to a full 21 months for violent
disorder. Letters of support to: Kuldip Bajwa, DN 7230, HMP Jebb Ave.,
Brixton, London, SW2 5XF.

Jeff Booker, sentenced to 18 months for the J18 protests, has been moved.
His new address is HMP Elmley, Church Road, Eastchurch, Sheerness, Kent
ME12 4AX. Prison number DN7071.

Saptal Ram has now been in jail for fourteen years, for defending himself
against a violent racist attack in a Birmingham restaurant. Whilst in
prison, he has been subjected to constant strip-searches and beatings. On
Monday 28th Feb, his family are due to meet with Paul Boateng, the Minister
for prisons, to demand that Saptal be released immediately. There will be a
vigil of support on the same day outside the Home Office, Queen Anne’s
Gate, London SW1 beginning at 9.30am. Free Saptal Ram, PO Box 23139,
SE1 IZU. www.ncadc.demon.co.uk/saptal.html


...and finally...

The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) reckons it’s going to be a lot more
open. And what could be more open than Qatar, a diminutive Middle East
enclave clinging on to the edge of that famous democratic state, Saudi
Arabia, opposite Iran and run by a monarchy with a population of just

540,000. Their embassy told a startled SchNEWS, "Qatar expressed a wish to
hold a meeting; our chances are good."

After full on riots greeted the last two Conferences in Geneva and Seattle,
it seems that out of the 135 member countries of the WTO, nobody wanted to
bite the (rubber) bullet and invite those global racketeers to their
shores. So the WTO must have thought it was the multinationals’ answer to
winning the lottery when Qatar, after fighting off stiff competition from
absolutely no one, invited them to hold the next big trade talks in 2001 in
the middle of an Arabian desert in the capital Doha. The only people who
are 'over the moon' about this gathering are the all dressed in black,
scarf clad anarchists, who feel quite confident about blending in.

Still, readers, your’ll need a visa to get in so start thinking of some
good excuses. But if that’s too much, SchNEWS recommends that protestors
with soundsystems leg it over the hills of Afghanistan, sneak though Iran
then swim across The Gulf, or maybe just cut across Saudia Arabia. Dress as
an Arab-looking tourist and you’re be laughing.

* Next time you’re surfing the web, why not do your bit to uphold society
and give the Seattle Police Department a hand in bringing to justice those
naughty anarchists who brought ‘terror’ to Seattle during the WTO protests.
Yes, the Seattle Police Intelligence Division has a lovely website full of
colourful pictures of protestors and divided into categories such as
‘arson’, ‘property damage’ and ‘assaults’. The site however seems strangely
void of any pictures of polie clubbing, gassing of firing on anything that
moved. If you fancy having a look, then check out this ridiculously long
website www.pan.ci.seattle.wa.us/seattle/spd/wto/spdwtosuspecthome.htm

SchNEWS warns all readers that your disclaimer is currently unobtainable
and engaged on another line.
Please try later.

GOT A SPARE PC OR PRINTER? We've been given two printers but they're too
old to work with current software. If you can help.............


Cor-blimley-they’re-practically-giving-them-away book offer SchNEWS Round
issues 51 - 100 £5 inc SchNEWS Annual issues 101 - 150 £5 inc. SchNEWS
Survival Guide issues 151 - 200 and a whole lot more £6 + £1.20 postage All
three yours for £15 inc. postage. In addition to 50 issues of SchNEWS, each
book contains articles, photos, cartoons, a 'yellow pages' list of
contacts, comedy etc. All the above books are available from the Brighton
Peace Centre, saving postage yer tight gits.

Subscribe to SchNEWS: Send us first class stamps (e.g. 20 for the next 20
issues) or donations (cheques payable to "Justice?"). Or £15 for a year's
subscription, or the SchNEWS supporter's rate, £1 a week. Ask for
"original" if you plan to copy and distribute. SchNEWS is post-free to
prisoners. You can also pick SchNEWS up at the Brighton Peace and
Environment Centre at 43 Gardner Street, Brighton.

SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 2DX, England
Phone/Fax (call before faxing): 01273 685913
Email: schnews@brighton.co.uk Web: http://www.schnews.org.uk/


Last updated 11th February 2000
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