Adonis Diaries

Why Michael Wright feels this urge to terrorize the Lebanese workers?

Posted on: December 14, 2013

Why Michael Wright feels this urge to terrorize the Lebanese workers?

To those who don’t know: Michael Wright is ostensibly the CEO of the supermarket chain Spinneys.

In truth, however, he is the spearhead of an entire system dedicated to terrorizing the Lebanese people and driving them to despair.

This system seeks, persistently and consistently, to force the Lebanese to forfeit not only their rights, but also the mere idea of demanding them

Charbel Nahas Published in the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar this December 12, 2013

Thank You, Michael Wright!

Michael Wright is the man who forced hundreds of employees to send out the same stylized letter – spontaneously, of course – in which they absolved him of his obligations and waived their rights to the mandatory wage hikes granted under the Wage Correction Decree.

Michael Wright is the man who failed to declare 502 of his employees to Social Security, as established by the Inspectorate of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), having instead registered them as “contractors.”

Thank you Michael for proving, clearly and remarkably, that you have been using your company’s financial assets to buy and rent loyalties.(Photo: Marwan Tahtah).

Wright also threatened to withhold advertisements from several media outlets if they dared expose his actions. He was also the one who told the International Labor Organization, which condemned his acts of bullying, after offering to mediate, that his employees had no union – after he gave those who had joined one the option of either leaving the union or being fired. And Mr. Wright was the one to put pressure on businesses to fire activists who had shown their support for the rights of Spinneys’ employees.

Michael Wright lived and worked in Lebanon for 16 years without obtaining a work permit, at least since 2005.

Nevertheless, he was not fined or deported. Instead, the Ministry of Labor rectified this irregularity in November 2012 – something that would never happen with a Sri Lankan or Filipino domestic worker.

Michael Wright did not attend a single hearing in the course of the lawsuits he brought against me for alleged libel and slander. I do not know the man personally, but I know a lot about his deeds and I have described them accurately and faithfully.

The Spinneys CEO failed to appear before the Criminal Court to be interviewed in the course of a lawsuit brought against him for denying Lebanese citizens their right to exercise their fundamental freedoms, despite being notified in both his personal capacity and in his capacity as the CEO of the company.

Wright did not send his lawyers or offer an apology, and even declared in statements to the press that he did not intend to appear and that nothing would happen.

He tried to evade being served with a subpoena, hiding in the hotel where he resides, after being contacted by the front desk upon the request, and in the presence of, the summons deliverer.

In two previous hearings before the Court of Publications, his lawyer was surprised to see me attend as the defendant. I did not make any insincere excuses, or ask for an adjournment. I insisted to be interrogated and tried, and for witnesses to be summoned, because of my confidence in the judiciary and my belief that the issue had nothing to do with libel and slander, but rather had everything to do with the duty of exposing those who assault public freedoms.

Paradoxically, at that hearing it was the prosecuting attorney who called for an adjournment. The lawyer objected to the judge because a number of activists and defenders of public freedoms – which Michael Wright violated – had answered my call and had come to the courthouse to show their support.

The lawyer claimed that their presence constituted abuse. But the presiding judge and public prosecutor responded to the lawyer by saying that court sessions were public and that there was no objection to litigators inviting their supporters to attend.

Michael Wright was advised that he too could send out invitations, not to activists defending public freedoms, but to employees of the company he manages, through their mobile phones and posters in the mess halls of his company’s stores – and he did. The following is the text of the message he sent out:

”Together for a stand in solidarity with Spinneys’ regional director Mr. Michael Wright in his lawsuit brought before the Court of Publications against Charbel Nahas on Wednesday, December 11, at 9:30 am. Venue: The Court of Publications – Sami al-Solh Street.”

It is no secret that Michael Wright is repeating what he did in the past, when he brought in his “loyal staff” to demonstrate outside his store in Ashrafieh, to shout that they did not want a union. On another occasion, these “loyal employees” staged a protest outside the union’s headquarters, shouting that Michael Wright represented them and not the union, and tried to obstruct the elections for the union’s council.

On yet another occasion, the employees came to the Ministry of Labor to show off the union, after he forced them to sign declarations that they are withdrawing from the union. Each time, those “loyal employees” came wearing the same uniforms, and in buses supplied by the company’s management, leaving no room for doubt about the unspontaneous and paid nature of their movement.

Wright is summoning his supporters, although he is the plaintiff before the Court of Publications and although he is the one whose lawyers have requested an adjournment. He is the one who has dodged subpoenas and failed to appear before the Criminal Court as a defendant in another case, and bragged that he would not attend the court hearing, and that nothing would happen as a result. Faced with this comical situation, one must preempt his “supporters” and declare: Thank you, Michael!

Thank you, because, you, of your own accord, are demonstrating the violations attributed to you. You have hired supporters, proving that the wage you pay them is enough – in your view – to force them, through blackmail and intimidation, not only to waive their rights and stand against their colleagues who dared demand these rights and risked being sacked by you, but also to humiliate themselves by playing trivial, saddening, and shameful roles that you have forced them to assume.

Thank you Michael for proving, clearly and remarkably, that you have been using your company’s financial assets to buy and rent loyalties. What a difference there is between those who are defending public freedoms, who persist in their efforts even though none of them is paid, while many of them receive threats and risk their jobs and livelihoods, and those whom you hire to support your bullying tactics, trampling on their own dignities and the basic rights of citizens.

Thank you for proving your contempt for the rights of Lebanese citizens, as you prevent them from exercising their fundamental freedoms; your contempt for the laws of the Lebanese state, living and working in Lebanon without applying for a work permit; and your contempt for the judiciary, by failing to comply with its summons, and by seeking today to instigate scuffles outside the court, thinking that this will confuse the matter.

Thank you, Michael, because you are going to come to court today – it would be a shame if you disappoint your hired supporters – and for giving us the opportunity to see you at long last.

Charbel Nahas is an economist and former telecommunications and labor minister of Lebanon.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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December 2013

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