Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Spinneys

Is Labor Day celebrations ringing hollow in your country?

Labor Day was first celebrated in the USA and was led by women workers. The Soviet Union made this celebration a world event (for workers), which forced the USA to shift the day to November?

Even current Russia reverted to communist zeal during this year celebration.

The celebration was crushed in Turkey.

The women in Bangladesh led the celebration in an angry demonstration demanding better and safer clothing factories (last year, over 2,000 girls died under the rubble).

Hong Kong workers were demanding reduction in the proposed tax increase.

And what the Lebanese were demanding? Everything, even respect for the Syrian workers in Lebanon and domestic maids.

Samya KullabJustin Salhani published in the Daily Star this May 01, 2014

Lebanon Labor Day celebrations ring hollow

BEIRUT: Tailor Nabil Qassem makes 35-40 shirts a week, each one costing $50. The need to find his monthly rent of $1,000 will bring him into work on Labor Day, a national holiday falling on May 1 that is meant to honor workers.

Qassem, 40, has worked in his Hamra shop for the past four years. Before that he worked in someone else’s store.

Workers carry wood for burning ahead of Labor Day in Zahrani, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Workers carry wood for burning ahead of Labor Day in Zahrani, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

Unlike the small businesses and informal sector workers who spoke to The Daily Star, Qassem maintains the importance of the holiday in principle, though he doesn’t plan to take the day off and celebrate.

For him, Labor Day “is just one of those holidays like Mother’s Day. … We have to make a living.”

Many private sector workers blamed the precarious security situation for their inability to make ends meet in the past six months. Their plight has highlighted the absence of a comprehensive social assistance plan from the government, especially for workers in the informal sector, who often live on unpredictable wages month to month.

“We are in a very bad situation,” says electrician Ghassan Bedran.

“In the last 6-7 months, business has been reduced 50%.

Bedran’s shop in Mar Mikhael, Beirut, brought in $10,000 per month last year. Now, it barely earns $4,000. “And they want higher wages,” he says, glancing at his handful of employees.

“If we give them higher salaries, we will have to close our doors.”

Bolstering the strength of unions to lobby for worker’s rights, such as the General Labor Confederation, would not make a difference either, the disillusioned Bedran says.

“All unions are political. They use workers and laborers for their own interests.”

Despite widespread disenchantment, gains for labor rights are looming on the horizon, especially in the area of social protection, according to the International Labor Organization.

Pension reform has long been a contentious issue, and last year – before the Cabinet was demoted to caretaker status – it was within reach for private sector workers, with a draft law devised by the government, the ILO and the World Bank.

Lebanon is one of the few [countries] that does not have a pension scheme for private sector workers in place,” said Ursula Kulke of the ILO.

Currently, Lebanon operates an end-of-service indemnity program under which retirees receive a one-off payment amounting to one month for each year worked.

The amount was deemed insufficient to cover monthly living expenses and family support upon death. The draft scheme, stalled after the government changeover, would transform lump-sum payments into a monthly pension, guaranteeing individuals social security for the remainder of their lives.

“We hope we can continue discussions with the minister of labor and other responsible people in the Cabinet so we can proceed and so that hopefully in the near future there can be a pension scheme that provides regular benefits and income replacement to retirees,” Kulke said.

Nevertheless, Kulke said there was a pressing need to secure those who are not covered by the National Social Security Fund. Though private sector employees are insured under the NSSF, those working for the informal sector have no insurance apart from ad hoc payments and government cash transfers.

“What we would like to see is the real establishment of a social protection floor for these people so they can enjoy minimum income security,” said Kulke.

“The government is trying to do much already, but it’s become a big challenge with the Syrian refugees.”

Former Labor Minister Charbel Nahas said politicians could better protect informal sector workers “by implementing laws and improving those laws.”

“Labor law and social security laws are not applied,” he told The Daily Star, citing the example of Spinney’s, a supermarket chain accused of penalizing their employees for trying to unionize, among other alleged infractions.

Spinney’s CEO Michael Wright took Nahhas to court last year after the former minister addressed the issue in the media and likened Wright to a “terrorist.”

Nahhas added that the creation of unions in the public sector and restoring the union movement was important to keep power out of politicians’ hands.

Meanwhile, in the bustling district of Burj Hammoud, jeweler Raffy Bablanian worries about how to keep his family business afloat.

It’s not just the loss of revenues due to the security situation that worries him.

“I learned how to make jewelry from my father 45 years ago, and I thought I would do the same for my son, but he doesn’t want to do this job,” he says despondently. Business is never okay these days, but Bablanian has found ways to manage.

To find someone in the family to carry on with the jewelry-making tradition in the age of “computers and iPads” is another challenge altogether, he says, adding: “You can’t fix lack of inspiration with a wage hike.”

 A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 01, 2014, on page 4.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Reformist and former minister of Social Affairs: On Trial for reforming society?

It’s not every day that you get to see a Lebanese minister pleading his case in court.
But it probably should be everyday considering that Lebanon is among the world’s most corrupt countries, according to the 2012 report by Transparency International.
Posted Yesterday by  posted this Nov. 2, 2013 in The Beirut Report:

A minister on trial

The ranking is not surprising in a country where government bodies routinely fail to publish any records on how public money is spent or the fact that known militia leaders, murders, criminals and their business associates are running the government with zero accountability.

So what brought former labor minister Charbel Nahas to court this week?

Did he insulted the head of a major corporation (Spinneys supermarket chain) after it was accused of intimidating and attacking its own employees.

Nahas is barely visible in this rare photo leaning into the podium just right of attorney Nizar Saghieh. Court proceedings are not videotaped, photographed or recorded.

Nahhas is accused of defaming the British Michael Wright, CEO of the massive Spinneys supermarket chain by calling him a “terrorist“in a Facebook post, following reports that workers have been physically abused or fired for attempting to form a union to demand their rights.

The workers had accused Spinneys of failing to implement a government passed wage hike, denying social security benefits for hundreds of its employees and actually collecting daily fees of 5,000LL from its bag handlers for the opportunity to work for Spinneys.

The formation of the private union was considered a historic event in a country where labor rights are violated with impunity on a daily basis and the Spinneys workers received support from the International Labor Organization as well as Minister Nahas, who helped them create the union.

Activists are saying that the Spinneys worker’s union has largely been emptied owing to a vast intimidation campaign by Spinneys management.

Activists allege that Wright and his legal team have been sending threatening letters to anyone who likes, blogs or shares critical posts about Spinneys.

I have seen a couple of these emails and have also heard testimony from activists who work outside of Spinneys and say they have either lost jobs or been forced into silence after Spinneys lawyers reached out to their bosses and demanded that they cease any activities criticizing the supermarket or its treatment of workers. Much of that has been documented on the site “Spinneys CEO Against Freedoms” created by activists.

But all this did not stop dozens of supporters from attending Minister Nahas’s defamation trial on Wednesday and his defense by the prominent human right’s lawyer Nizar Saghieh. The large crowd of supporters seemed to annoy the Spinneys lawyer, who accused the minister of recruiting court attendees on Facebook.

The judge laughed and said: “Next time, why don’t you invite your supporters via Facebook?

Nahas addresses the media following the hearing.
Activists supporting Nahas gather outside the courthouse.

The audience had a laugh as well and the judge threw out the complaint noting that court attendance was free and open to the public. This last line was really interesting to me. I never knew court trials were open to the public. In fact, I’d never been to the main courthouse in Adlieh, which is quite a large and impressive building by Lebanese institution standards, though currently under renovation.

Even more interesting was the level of gender equality in the courts.

About half of the cloak-wearing attorneys I saw in the hallways were female as were two out of three judges sitting on the bench in the Nahas trial:

The only problem was that it was really hard to hear anything. The large vintage wooden-pane windows were all propped open and, with no speaker system, the voices of both litigants and judges were drowned out by the jackhammers at a nearby construction site.

But a microphone wasn’t the only type of electronics that were desperately lacking. There were no cameras and not even a sound recording of the proceedings. The only record was a handwritten one, penned by the woman in green sitting next to the judges.

Of course all this pales in comparison to the questionable nature in which cases are chosen to be heard. And why is it that we are prosecuting people for criticizing a company’s policies on Facebook instead of prosecuting the myriad of white collar crimes and kickbacks going on nationwide, not to mention the utter public sector corruption that produces a critical lack of basic services such as healthcare, electricity, water, traffic policing and internet access, just to name a few.

Part of the problem seems to be intimidation.

Few Lebanese believe in the courts or have the time to fight in them. But perhaps more of us need to start making time to attend trials at this great, seemingly gender progressive courthouse and launching complaints about the leadership that has failed us.

As for the Nahas trial, the next hearing is scheduled for the 11th of December. More updates to come.

Stop abusing your employees Mr. Wright! Obey the Laws of the Land

Workers rights are finally making progress in Lebanon.

Syndicates in Lebanon were well-organized and engaged on the side of their workers before the civil war in 1975.

This long civil war that lasted 13 years has thrown all syndicates and associations in the laps of the warlords and the political leaders who emerged stronger from the massacres they perpetrated: The warlord leaders are still in power and controlling everything.

The warlord leaders are actually the ones instigating syndicates at their sold to demonstrate for the political leaders expediencies.

Dozens of demonstrations take place every week, but the government is playing the unconcerned and deaf to people’s demands, as long as the warlords demands are satisfied.

Recently, the British chief manager of Spinneys Supermarket chain in Lebanon made a mockery of the entire Lebanese pseudo central government, refused to pay taxes, refused the workers their rights to organize in a syndicate, refused to pay the wage increases that the government decreed… And refused to desist taking a portion of the tips that bag chariot carrier helpers were receiving.

Mind you that these “workers” are not paid anything: as if tips should cover all their hard work and dedication.

Charbel Nahass, the former minister of social affairs has been encouraging the employees at Spinneys to organize in a syndicate in order to reclaim their due rights. Nahas was the main catalyst in this resurgent zeal for employees in other industries to get together and reclaim their due rights..

After many months, and overcoming many problems and institutional barriers, the employees managed to form their syndicate.

Spinneys started to fire all the engaged employees on lame excuses, but the syndicate took hold, with the widest support from the citizens.

Dalia Hashad  of posted:

Workers rights are finally making progress in Lebanon

Spinneys workers have stood outnumbered in the face of corruption, violence, and cronyism to form the first private sector union in Lebanon in decades.

Now that the State has recognised the union, it’s time for real change .

Only mass solidarity with the workers can bring Spinneys management to the negotiating table.

Public outcry has already helped kill terrible management practices, like refusal to implement minimum wage laws, and making laborers pay Spinneys 5,000 LL a day ($3) just to be able to bag groceries.

When the union was first formed, management went after the workers, firing and intimidating them.

Hired thugs even besieged a building the union council was meeting in, and on one occasion beat up a worker.

Although the union has finally been recognised by the Ministry of Labour, the intimidation continues.

Despite the behaviour of Spinneys management, the workers are not looking to sink the corporation. They want to stay onboard with their rights intact.

Spinneys can capitalise on this moment and become a real beacon for the workers’ rights movement in Lebanon.

Instead, union members told Avaaz that Wright had rejected every effort by the union to negotiate workers rights, refusing even to receive hand-delivered invitations.

Currently, the workers’ movement is unstoppable.

The company is already feeling the burn on their public image and this is our chance to ride that wave and pressure Spinneys to comply with basic workers’ rights.

If we reach 15,000 signatures in solidarity with the workers’ union, we will buy billboards in strategic locations around Beirut, shaming CEO Wright for allowing ongoing mistreatment and abuse of his employees.

Only a huge wave of support for the union will make CEO Wright realize that his company can’t jerk around their Lebanese employees anymore and finally come to the negotiating table for better workers’ rights.

If we reach 15,000 signatures in solidarity with the workers’ union, we will buy billboards in strategic locations around Beirut, shaming CEO Wright for allowing ongoing mistreatment and abuse of his employees.

Sign the petition now and share this with everyone:

The International Labour Organisation has already condemned Spinneys’ practices and demanded action from the government but workers are still outnumbered and overpowered.

Avaaz members worldwide have campaigned to stamp out corporate corruption and promote workers rights around the world.
With hope and determination,
Dalia, Bissan, Rewan, Mais, Ricken, Mouhamad, and the entire Avaaz team

Note 1: Read yesterday, Jan. 8, 2013 that Wright was fired. Good riddence.

Note 2: On former minister Charbel Nahass

Related links:

Spinneys Workers’ Fight is Our Fight (Al-Akhbar)
Court to tackle Spinneys dismissal row (Daily Star)
Spinneys Union Leader Assaulted (Al-Akhbar)
Unionizing in Lebanon: The Struggle is Elsewhere (Jadaliyya)
Lebanon: Bitter battle of Spinneys union (Albawaba)
Abi Hanna: Last Days at Spinneys (Al-Akhbar)
After a long battle Spinneys staff elect first union leader (Albawaba)




March 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,518,860 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 764 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: