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Correspondence: Fremantle: We turn up the heat

16 September 2007

A little more than a week ago, the Fremantle Trust tried to close down LabourStart by threatening our internet service provider (ISP), claiming that it was hosting "potentially libellous" material. We're pleased to report that after thinking about it for three or four days, our ISP realized that our online campaign was not libellous and informed us that it could be back online. (This was picked up by the media and labelled a "web campaign victory.")  In the meanwhile, we didn't sit around waiting -- we moved the whole campaign over a web server in Australia (at a considerable expense of time and money), and that is where it is staying.  And we've turned up the heat on Fremantle. 

If you search on Google for the term 'Fremantle' you're likely to see our ad in the upper right corner of the page. (Or not -- Google won't show it every time.) Our ad has now been shown nearly 152,000 times -- that's tens of thousands of people who have seen a loud and clear message which reads "Fremantle - Stop bullying, start talking. Barnet care workers deserve more."  In the last week, since Fremantle tried to silence us, another 4,000 of you have sent off messages to its chief executive, Carole Sawyers. With over 12,000 messages now in her inbox, we've broken all records for a LabourStart online campaign. 

Sawyers has written to some of you presenting Fremantle's case, and had this to say about our online campaign:  "I can honestly say that we have not bullied or intimidated Labourstart into removing the content about Fremantle. I sent a polite email request to Mr Lee asking that he remove it; informing him that the information was inaccurate, misleading and potentially libellous. I copied this information to Labourstartís ISP, who requested them to remove the information pending further investigation." 

Think about that for a minute. She "copied this information" (which was untrue) to our ISP, knowing what English libel laws are like, knowing full well that the ISP would almost certainly order us to take down the campaign rather than risk facing a legal action. This was not an attempt to persuade LabourStart, politely or otherwise. It was a blatant attempt to stifle dissent, to shut down criticism of an employer so used to bullying its workers that it doesn't realize what it is up against here. 

This week, the workers at Fremantle are going on strike once again, and will be coming to the company headquarters to protest. They are not alone. They go there knowing that they have the backing not only of their union, Unison, and of the British trade union movement, but of tens of thousands of organized workers around the world.  They have asked me to convey their thanks to all of you. 

Eric Lee



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