Spinneys CEO sues Charbel Nahas over "defamation"

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Spinneys is owned by Arab Gulf capital and run by Englishman Michael Wright. (Photo: Al-Akhbar - Haitham Moussawi)

Published Thursday, May 2, 2013

The CEO of Spinneys, Englishman Michael Wright, is suing Lebanon’s former labor minister Charbel Nahas over “defamation” charges, according to local news outlets and activists.

“Nahas is being tried for defamation because he called [Wright] a ‘terrorist’ via media outlets and television,” Abir Ghattas, an activist close to the Spinneys case told Al-Akhbar.

“Nahas is always talking about Spinneys and brings to light the company’s violations. Wright is a bully and he doesn’t want anyone to come out and say anything against his benefits, which is not for the worker’s benefits,” she added.

The first hearing is to happen on 8 May 2013 in the Publications Court of Adlieh, Beirut at 10am.

Nahas has been an active member in the fight against Spinneys labor law and worker’s rights violations and its attempts to crush a worker’s union in 2012.

Spinney’s has come under heavy fire from rights group after the company – and more particularly, Michael Wright – attempted to stop the worker’s union committee from forming.

The committee formed in July 2012 after Spinneys refused to adjust workers’ salaries to comply with the national wage increase passed by the Lebanese government earlier that year. This is in addition to other labor abuses, such as not paying their baggers, thus forcing them to rely exclusively on tips.

During the committee’s elections, CEO Wright had organized a counter-protest with over 200 pro-company employees.

Workers at Spinneys were threatened with unemployment if they were to continue with their unions actions. Some were fired.

Several activists also began receiving letters threatening them with legal action if they continued their campaign calling for the boycott of Spinneys over the supermarket chain’s continued violations of workers’ rights.

Some activists received warnings from their political leaders – as well as their employers – who claimed that there were “diabolical” designs behind the Spinneys workers’ organizing efforts.

Nahas battled against entrenched sectarian and neoliberal alliances to implement a just and systematic law of wage increases. But after his closest allies did not back his plan, he resigned in February 2013.

Activists have documented on a a website the violations committed by Michael Wright and the company.

(Al-Akhbar)

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