McLibel Trial News 3, Part 2

The Anarchives (tao@lglobal.com)
Sat, 17 Aug 1996 16:54:03 +0000 (GMT)


Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 19:34:23 -0400
From: dbriars@world.std.com
Subject: Trial News 3 Part 2
From: McLibel Support Campaign, London

Contents

Part 2

Food Safety
Packaging & Waste
Employees -
Trade Unions, Pay And Conditions
Union issues
Colchester - 'Store of the Year'
General Workplace Experiences
Publication & Counterclaim
Keeping Tabs on Protestors
Infiltration and Dirty Tricks
McDonald's Agent Appears for the
Defence
________________________________________________________________________

Food Safety

Richard North, an Environmental Health Officer specialising in food
hygiene and safety testified for the Defendants. He had made expert
visits on their behalf to McKeys Ltd (McDonald's UK hamburger production
factory) at Milton Keynes, to Sun Valley Poultry Ltd (McDonald's chicken
products supplier) at Hereford, and to a local McDonald's store.

Mr North stated that the majority of reported food poisoning incidents
are linked to eating meat, especially chicken and minced beef (e.g. for
burgers). The high volume, intensive Sun Valley production system, he
explained, "produced chicken meat with a salmonella burden of 25%,
magnified from 1% in the live birds". Regarding the production of
hamburgers, he criticised the results of bulking and blending meat used
in beefburger production which "is such to maximise risk". He added that
campylobacter organisms are widely present in both chicken and red meat
and can cause disease, even in small quantities, unless eliminated by
sufficient core temperatures in cooking. (McDonald's own expert on food
safety, Colin Clarke, was not called by the company - his prepared
statement, as read out by the Defendants, called on McDonald's to
increase the minimum internal temperature calibrations for the cooking of
burgers in their stores). In Mr North's opinion, the cooking systems in
McDonald's stores have "no defence in depth" and have to be maintained at
all times "to overcome defects in an inherently unhygienic and fragile
business". He cited the serious outbreak of E.Coli food poisoning at
McDonald's Preston stores in 1991 as an example of weaknesses in the
company's systems, and he noted Defence evidence of widespread staff
inexperience, pressure of work and equipment problems (see Employment
evidence). Mr North concluded that "the McDonald's chain in the UK
continues to regard adherence to hygiene codes as more of a marketing
tool than an issue of public safety".

Finally, Mr North explained that pesticides residues are an additional
concern, in particular organophosphorous compounds (OPs) which attack
human nervous systems and are undesirable in any quantities. He told how
OPs have been used as part of widespread compulsory cattle pest treatment
programs, and how official figures cite 40% of cows' milk samples testing
positive for OP residues.

Marja Hovi gave evidence for the Defence on the hygiene concerns
surrounding McDonald's food. She worked in 1994 as an experienced
Official Veterinary Surgeon at Alec Jarret Ltd - an abattoir near Bristol
that supplied McKey Foods, McDonald's UK sole supplier of hamburgers.
She explained how she had been specially brought in by the local
authority to sort out shortcomings at the slaughterhouse.

Ms Hovi described several discrepancies between official regulations and
actual practice at the plant, including poor hygiene, improper inspection
and higher than recommended storage temperatures - all of which could
contribute to contamination and bacterial growth in McDonald's
beefburgers. She was dismissed after refusing to bow to pressure to sign
export certificates for the slaughterhouse's beef to verify (without the
necessary back-up documents) it as coming from herds which had been 'BSE-
free' for at least 6 years (as then required by European regulations).

Packaging & Waste

Anne Link, the Science Co-ordinator of the Women's Environmental Network
(currently sponsoring a waste minimisation bill in the UK Parliament),
gave expert evidence for the Defence about the negative effects to the
environment caused by McDonald's packaging. She was particularly
concerned about dangerous chemicals and excessive amounts of energy used
in production processes, and also about the damage caused by the disposal
of discarded materials. She criticised the sheer volume of company
packaging, much of it unnecessary, and the fact that McDonald's uses
disposable items instead of reusables. They don't even recycle any
customer waste. She said it is an internationally recognised aim to
create a 'no waste society'. Referring to McDonald's official documents
she concluded that the company "is waiting until forced to change by
increasing environmental awareness", and "could be using its
international structure to spread good environmental ideas rather than
bad ones as at present".

Employees-Trade Unions, Pay And Conditions

About 40,000 employees work for the McDonald's chain in the UK, and over
1.5 million worldwide. The sort of jobs characterised by hard work, low
pay, unsafe environment, no guaranteed hours and no Unions or rights have
been popularly described as 'McJobs'. In Trial News 2, the evidence
given by McDonald's executives and departmental heads from the USA and
the UK was outlined. Over a number of months, the Defendants then called
two dozen ex-employees and union activists (and many more from around the
world gave evidence in writing) to tell the inside story of their own
experiences.

Union Issues

Dave Turnbull, TGWU Food & Drink Workers Representative for London and
the South East, informed the court about the low wages, poor conditions
and high turnover in the catering industry. He explained that it is
difficult for workers to organise and gain union recognition due to the
nature of the industry and the hostility of employers to unions. Despite
this, he said the TGWU had won representation, recognition and
improvements in a number of companies, and he could see no reason why
McDonald's workers should be denied such basic human rights.

Phil Pearson (an expert on industrial relations and workplace conditions)
testified about low pay, high turnover and poor conditions at McDonald's
and in the catering industry, and about the time he was refused entry to
McDonald's stores as a TGWU Union official during a recruitment campaign.
He also made an expert site visit to two McDonald's stores on behalf of
the Defendants. He stated that, in 1992, when McDonald's were paying
just over 3 pounds per hour, the New Earnings Survey defined 'low pay' as
anything less than 5.52 pounds per hour - a 'decency threshold' set by
the Council of Europe. (In 1996, the company still only paid 3.15
pounds). It seemed to him, as a former member of the now abolished
catering industry Wages Council (which was a statutory body enforcing
minimum wages and conditions for low-paid workers) that McDonald's
failure to pay any overtime in the late 1980's was "apparently, from the
figures [official McDonald's documents], systematic abuse, systematic
underpayment ... non-application of the law". He added that "failure to
pay the appropriate remuneration" was an offence "punishable by fine or
imprisonment". According to official company documents, around a quarter
of all the company's full time hourly-paid UK staff work overtime without
extra pay.

Terry Pattinson (former Industrial Editor of the Daily Mirror) informed
the court about an interview on 16th Dec 1986 with Sid Nicholson (at the
time McDonald's Head of Personnel) who stated "We will never negotiate
wages and conditions with a union and we discourage our staff from
joining." Mr Pattinson testified further that Paul Preston (McDonald's
UK President) had stated much the same to him in conversations in May
1990.

Michael Mehigan, the owner of McDonald's stores in the Republic of
Ireland since 1978, was questioned about the historic, partially-
successful 1979 Dublin strike by McDonald's workers, which lasted 7
months and resulted in recognition of the union. The company had refused
to recognise the union because "we didn't want to lose control of our
business", he said. It was shown that after the strike, the company
avoided meeting with the union and refused to give jobs back to prominent
union activists. In 1985, two union activists took the company to the
Rights Commissioner claiming unfair dismissal for union activity; the
court ruled in their favour.

Shop stewards in the strike, Anne Casey and Sean Mrozek, came over from
Ireland to tell how there had been discontent over low pay and poor
conditions in their stores. And after the bitter strike ended with a
labour court ruling that McDonald's should recognise the union, they told
how the main union activists were nevertheless sacked or otherwise
victimised for union activity.

Sarah Inglis, a Canadian worker, testified how in 1993 at the age of 16
she signed up a majority of the workers in her McDonald's store (Ontario)
to a Union. In response, managers organised a bizarre and nationally
controversial anti-union campaign, which included creating a climate of
fear against pro-union staff, getting some of the workers in that store
(the majority of whom were under 18) to lie outside in the snow forming
the word 'NO' (to unions), putting on special anti-union video and slide
shows, and temporarily allowing improved conditions in the run-up to an
unsuccessful secret ballot in the store for union recognition. The court
heard, according to the evidence of Defence witness Joel Henderson (pro-
union crew member at the store), that after the ballot "things have
returned to the slave-like working conditions that crew must endure every
single shift that they work".

Mike Soriano came from the USA to testify how he, and other McDonald's
workers, organised a majority of staff into a Union in a Chicago store in
1978 - as a way of countering poor pay and conditions. The court heard
how the franchisee pulled out all the stops to harass Union activists,
bring in 'sweeteners' for other staff and use legal tricks to prevent
Union recognition.

Thomas Jenssen, a crew member in Norway who was elected union
representative following a recent dispute and strike threat (which won
union recognition) gave evidence for the Defence.

Hassen Lamti, a current McDonald's crew member in Lyon (France) and a
trade union rep, related:
* how five McDonald's managers were arrested for trying to rig union
elections in July 1994;
* how he was harassed for union activity - he was wrongly accused of
making bomb threats to the store and of other criminal activities; an
attempt was made to frame him for armed robbery, and McDonald's offered
him a bribe if he renounced the union;
* how the union branch, now established, has so far won over 20 court
judgments against the company to stop harassment and illegal business
practices.
Colchester - 'Store of the Year'

Simon Gibney (a former Manager of the Colchester McDonald's, 'Store of
the Year' in 1987) laid bare the reality of McDonald's unethical, illegal
and/or oppressive practices - watering down products, working amid
sewage, illegal hours worked, obsession with cutting labour costs to the
bone, and the fiddling of time cards. He also referred to the formation
of "McDonald's Freedom Fighters".

Siamak Alimi, former crew member at Colchester, told of the high pressure
of work at McDonald's, long hours (including 20 hour shifts!) with few
breaks and low pay; of how workers under 18 worked illegal hours; and of
how there were threats of the sack for joining a union or protests
against in-store conditions.

Kevin Harrison worked in 1986/7 at McDonald's branches in Colchester and
Ipswich as an assistant manager. Pressure to reduce costs all round led
to the secret cutting of food servings and using out of date food. He
criticised managers' use of 'hustle' to get work speeded up.
"McDonald's", he stated, "is a very pressurised environment, and nowhere
else are you expected to work at that level for such long periods of
time". He complained that managers were encouraged to use their power
over work schedules to discriminate and to foster compliance among crew.
Mr Harrison told the court that an authoritarian 'them and us' attitude
was created between crew and managers, which aimed to exploit crew
members wherever possible. He left due to 'the job, the hours and
mounting dissatisfaction with the company philosophy in general.'

Kate Harrison, who had worked at five different McDonald's stores, told
the court about the harsh reality and the pressure of working, stating
that crew members were often denied breaks in busy periods, and sometimes
worked whole shifts without a break. At three of the stores, she
witnessed under-18's working illegal hours. She recalled two occasions
when sewage came up out of the drains into the kitchen but staff had to
continue preparing and cooking food.

Ray Coton, the former Store Manager (from August 1987 to 1991) of
Colchester McDonald's backed up the allegations made by Defence witnesses
from the store (see above). He further explained how he was under
continual pressure from McDonald's officials to boost profits, and how he
eventually resigned as a result.

General Workplace Experiences

Andrew Cranna, former Assistant Manager of the West Ealing branch of
McDonald's in the mid-1980's, gave evidence. He told of dictatorial
management, employees afraid to criticise due to fear of
"recriminations", how talking to the press was banned, work was "greasy
and high pressure", of pressure from officials to achieve low labour cost
targets, of how people could be sent home early to save money, of how
"any active member of a union will not be tolerated", staff were "made to
feel they were fully expendable" and if they fell out of favour would be
discriminated against until they quit.

Iain Whittle related his experiences as a crew member at McDonald's store
in Sutton from 1983-6. He portrayed McDonald's as an oppressive, anti-
trade union company in which 'paranoid' managers competed to reduce
staffing levels to save money. He described how managers' obsession with
profit levels sometimes led to the sale of undercooked and unhygienic
food.

Harriet Lamb, a researcher who gathered information by working at
McDonald's Kentish Town in 1987, told how she contributed to a pamphlet
Working For Big Mac about the reality of working conditions at
McDonald's. The pamphlet's publishers were sued by the company,
apologised in open court due to lack of funds, had to pulp the booklet,
and then went bust. She said she stood by the contents of the work,
despite the so-called 'apology'. She also wrote an article for the
Guardian newspaper which was also sued and 'apologised'. Ms Lamb
verified the contents of an interview which was taped with a manager in
1987 - he had criticised the company for being 'anti-Union', the job as
'demoralising' and pay as 'awful', and all "to make as much profit for
the bigwigs as possible".

Michael Logan, a floor manager for a number of years at Bath McDonald's,
told how he walked out in November 1994 due to understaffing, dangerous
working conditions (including abuse of electrical safety), pressures to
cut corners on food safety and other problems. He gave evidence of how
scheduling was used as a tool of discrimination and discipline, how staff
failed to get their breaks entitlement (backed up by official clockcard
records obtained by the Defendants showing hundreds of infringements of
the law), and how beef and chicken products were regularly served
undercooked. Danny Olive, another floor manager at the store, told the
court how he backed the evidence of Mr Logan and how he had also resigned
some months later, submitting a detailed letter of complaint over
conditions at the store.

Evidence has also been heard from a number of other Defence witnesses,
ex-employees and trade union representatives from the UK, Ireland,
Australia, New Zealand and the USA, and also Dan Gallin, the General
Secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers based in Geneva. All
the Defence witness statements are available to be read in full on the
'McSpotlight' Internet website
<http://www.mcspotlight.org/people/witnesses/contents_list.html>.

Publication & Counterclaim

Legal Arguments
In April 1996, McDonald's were allowed to amend their Statement of Claim
(their original case against Helen Steel and Dave Morris). Previously,
McDonald's case regarding the distribution of the London Greenpeace 6-
page Factsheet (subject of the libel action) had always been that the two
Defendants were responsible for the handing out of the leaflet on a
handful of specific occasions in 1989/90. McDonald's now claim that the
Defendants, by virtue of their involvement in London Greenpeace, were
responsible for the production and distribution of the Factsheet
"wheresoever and whensoever" it had taken place! The Defendants were
unsuccessful in their appeal against this ruling.

The Judge also ruled that the Defendants could amend their Defence to
claim that, because McDonald's infiltrators had been actively involved in
the group and had helped to circulate the Factsheet, McDonald's had
consented to its distribution. However, the Judge disallowed the
Defendants' amendment that McDonald's had consented to publication of the
Factsheet by virtue of their failure to take any action to stop its
distribution until over three and a half years after the company first
became aware of it. (Contrary to their frequent claims in the media,
McDonald's never wrote to London Greenpeace, nor to anybody involved with
the group, about the Factsheet until they served writs on the Defendants
in September 1990.) It should be noted that Veggies Ltd of Nottingham -
the main publishers of the Factsheet since 1987 - were threatened with
legal action by McDonald's in 1987. After negotiations between their
respective solicitors, the company dropped the threats, accepting the
continued distribution of the Factsheet with a couple of minor
amendments. Veggies continued to circulate the Factsheet in bulk.

The Defendants also applied to join three of McDonald's 'enquiry agents'
(see below) as 'third parties' to the action (effectively becoming co-
defendants), due to their admissions of distributing the Factsheet. This
would make them liable to contribute to the payment of any damages
awarded against the Defendants (if they lose) by the Judge at the end of
the case. The Judge ruled that the appropriate time for such a course of
action would be after his verdict.

Meanwhile, also outstanding is the Defendants' Counterclaim against
McDonald's UK (issued in 1994) - for distributing 300,000 leaflets and
press releases on the eve of the trial (and later) attacking Helen and
Dave for circulating 'lies'. This Counterclaim for libel runs
concurrently with McDonald's Claim, and McDonald's have been put to prove
that the Factsheet was distributed by the Defendants since 1990, that its
contents are false and that the Defendants knew this! The company has
publicised the so-called 'apologies' of three people who were named on
the original writs and who pulled out - but one of the three, Paul
Gravett, appeared for the Defence and told the court: "I made the apology
because at the time we were given legal advice that..we would never get
the case to court because we did not have the financial resources to do
so, we could not get Legal Aid...it was unthinkable to fight a libel case
on your own. We would be liable for costs and whatever damages the Judge
decided and we could be bankrupted. That is what we were told and that
is why I apologised." He added that he stood by the Factsheet as being
accurate.

Keeping Tabs on Protestors

Terry Carroll, Head of Security of McDonald's UK since 1984, gave
evidence about protests against the company. Prior to joining
McDonald's, Mr Carroll had spent 30 years in the Metropolitan Police,
reaching the rank of Chief Superintendent.

As Head of Security, Mr Carroll said he regularly sent out instructions
to all McDonald's branches on what steps to take when the stores were
picketed. This included advice that wherever possible photographs should
be taken of protestors and these should be sent to regional headquarters
along with copies of any leaflets obtained. Mr Carroll stated that prior
to the company's regionalisation in 1990/91 all reports and photographs
of demonstrations had been sent to him. The purpose of this was to try
to identify if there was a "hard core" of people carrying out protests
all around the country. He said the company discovered that, in fact,
protests were generally local people picketing their local branch. He
said "literally hundreds" of leaflets had been sent to him and that so
many came in that the files became "unwieldy". He stated that no legal
action stemming from these files had ever been taken against protestors.

A report written by Mr Carroll about a protest outside McDonald's HQ on
16th October 1989 (World Day of Action against McDonald's), and sent to
Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President), had stated "I obtained
photographs of all of the demonstrators and I will have them identified
in due course". Quizzed about this, Mr Carroll said he had intended to
have them identified "through whatever sources I could". He admitted
that personal information about protestors had been relayed to him by a
Special Branch Officer who was present at the demonstration.

Sid Nicholson (McDonald's UK Vice President) formerly in charge of
Personnel and Security, testified for the second time in the trial (see
Trial News 2 for his evidence on employment conditions). Mr Nicholson
joined McDonald's in 1983 as Head of Security. Prior to this he had
spent 31 years in the police force, firstly in South Africa, and then in
the Metropolitan Police, reaching the rank of Chief Superintendent.

Mr Nicholson admitted that a month prior to the October '89 picket, he
had had a secret meeting at McDonald's Head Office with two members of
Special Branch where he obtained information about people involved with
London Greenpeace. He confirmed that during the picket of McDonald's HQ
on October 16th 1989, two Special Branch agents were in attendance, one
of whom stood with him passing on information about protestors. Company
documents revealed that McDonald's continued to receive information from
Special Branch until at least 1994.
Mr Nicholson stated that McDonald's security department "are all ex-
policemen", and had a great many contacts in the police from whom they
may get information about protestors. He also admitted that the company
had subscribed to the Economic League which he described as an
organisation which existed "to defend multinationals and the interests of
multinationals". He said that McDonald's had received information from
the Economic League about London Greenpeace and the Transnationals
Information Centre, who published Working for Big Mac, and said that "we
may very well have got reports on union activity". [N.B. The Economic
League kept a 'blacklist' of 'subversives' - political or trade union
activists - gleaned from various sources, which subscribers could use to
vet prospective employees. It was the subject of great controversy in
the late 80's/early 90's and has since closed down.]

Infiltration and Dirty Tricks

Mr Nicholson was questioned in detail about the steps taken by the
company against London Greenpeace and other critics. He admitted that,
in 1989 when considering legal action against the small environmental
collective, McDonald's had hired two private investigation agencies -
Kings Investigation Bureau and Bishops (part of Westhall Services) - to
infiltrate the group. A total of at least seven agents participated in
the group for varying lengths of time between October 1989 and Spring
1991. Mr Nicholson further admitted that approximately four of the seven
spies remained in the group after writs were served on the Defendants in
order to monitor the response.

One of the 'enquiry agents', Mr Brian Bishop, gave evidence about twelve
of the meetings and events he had attended on behalf of McDonald's,
between mid-May and the end of September 1990. He confirmed he had
"manned" a stall, some of the time on his own, at a "well attended"
public event, where, he said, "to the best of my knowledge" the anti-
McDonald's Factsheet was available for the public to take away.

At the first meeting he had attended, Mr Bishop had noted that the
windows in the then London Greenpeace office "had no security locks" and
that "I imagine [the next door office] is occupied 24 hours a day".
Questioned as to the relevance of such information Mr Bishop denied that
it was there to give advice to anybody interested in getting into London
Greenpeace's office to burgle them. He did however admit to taking a
letter about McDonald's which had been sent to London Greenpeace, and
said he had passed it on to the detective agency.

A second 'enquiry agent', Mr Allan Clare who had been employed by
McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace, also admitted taking several
letters sent to the group, although he claimed to have returned them
after making photocopies for McDonald's use. He admitted to breaking
into London Greenpeace's office and taking photographs in there, stating
"the door lock on the office to London Greenpeace was basically not very
strong and it was decided by me and my principals that entry to it would
not be a problem"..... "I used a phone card to swipe the lock". Mr
Clare attended at least 19 meetings of London Greenpeace. He admitted
sending out anti-McDonald's leaflets including the Factsheet.

Another 'enquiry agent', Mr Roy Pocklington, said he had attended at
least 26 meetings and events of LGP between October 1989 and June 1990.
Questioned by Mr Rampton QC as to the group's attitude to McDonald's, Mr
Pocklington said "The group felt that McDonald's were somewhat sinister,
somewhat exploitative, and their attitude was one of disgust and dislike
for McDonald's". He said that people in the group appeared sincere in
their beliefs. He said that the group was friendly and open but that in
order to continue attending meetings he felt "it would be beneficial to
show willing and help out where I could in the office". He had therefore
volunteered to help answer letters sent to the group, including on one
occasion spending 8 hours in the Greenpeace office writing replies, and
enclosing anti-McDonald's leaflets, including the anti-McDonald's
Factsheet.

Mr Pocklington agreed that he had pre-arranged to leave meetings talking
to certain individuals in order that they could be followed home, and
that he had provided a parcel of baby clothes for Mr Morris' son, in "an
attempt to discover Mr Morris' address".

McDonald's Agent Appears for the Defence

Throughout the case McDonald's had refused to identify more than the four
'enquiry agents' they were calling as witnesses. However, after the
Defendants obtained and served a statement by Frances Tiller, another
agent, McDonald's had had to admit that in fact the group had been
infiltrated by at least seven agents. Ms Tiller gave evidence for the
Defence on 28th June, the second Anniversary of the trial, and by co-
incidence the sixth anniversary of the first London Greenpeace meeting
she had infiltrated. She testified that "I felt very uncomfortable doing
that particular job", "I did not like the deception, prying on people and
interfering with their lives". "I did not think there was anything wrong
with what the group was doing" she said, adding: "I believe people are
entitled to their views".

All quotes are taken directly from the court transcripts Trial News 1 and
2 are also available.

--------------------------------------------------------

Campaign Statement: The McLibel Support Campaign was set up to generate
solidarity and financial backing for the McLibel Defendants, who are not
themselves responsible for Campaign publicity. The Campaign is also
supportive of, but independent from, general, worldwide, grassroots anti-
McDonald's activities and protests. One example is the McInformation
Network, an international network of volunteers from 14 countries who
have combined their efforts to produce the McSpotlight site on the
internet <http://www.mcspotlight.org/>. This contains a vast archive
about the case, and about McDonald's in general.
--------------------------------------------------------
Coming Events - Fall 1996

Day Of Solidarity With Mcdonald's Workers Sat October 12th 1996
This day marks the fourth anniversary of the death of Mark Hopkins, a
worker electrocuted at a McDonald's UK store. We are again calling an
international Day of Solidarity With McDonald's Workers on that day,
following last year's successful event. WE CALL FOR LEAFLETING AT LOCAL
STORES - leaflets available from US McLibel Support Campaign (send
donation).
--------------------------------------------------------
Annual Worldwide Day Of Action Against Mcdonald's Wed October 16th 1996
Picket your local store (leaflets available from US McLibel Support
Campaign (send donation).

--------------------------------------------------------

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