IFA: Not everything’s pink at the Telekom

3. September 2012: “Unions are for everyone, at T-Mobile USA as well („Gewerkschaft ist für alle da – auch bei T-Mobile USA“) and „Hey, T-Mobile USA, don’t take workers rights away“ – Shouting slogans and showing banners, ver.di members protested on Saturday, September 1 at the International Broadcasting Fair in Berlin (IFA, a globally leading fair for consumer electronics and home appliances(www.ifa-berlin.de) against the anti-worker policies of the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile USA. Motives of the protest are especially the unchanged bad working conditions in the US as well as the employer campaign against union organization.

At the same time, at various information stands in the Telekom’s exhibition hall 6.2 there appeared information material calling to support the online petition and explaining the US situation. On the numerous interactive screens in various exhibition halls an in the big Telekom picture gallery the campaign slogans “We Expect Better” and “Not everything is pink at the Telekom” could be seen as well.

“We think it is not ok that the Telekom presents a nice facade here at IFA, while our colleagues in the USA lack essential rights” said Tomas Lenk, ver.di shop steward, adding that employees were confronted with extreme, sickening pressure to perform and unfair harassment.
Disliked Call-Center-Agents, for example were sent home – unpaid – to write justification letters for alleged underperformance, while being threatened with immediate dismissal. “It’s because of these things that we join the solidarity campaign: “We expect better from Deutschen Telekom”.

Some visitors in the hall reacted with spontaneous applause. The action draw massive attention of the well networked IFA guests and was covered immediately afterwards in the internet – see for example here and online editions of various reknown media outlets – see list below.

In a message from the US, Larry Cohen, president of CWA, ver.di’s sister organisation commented:

"Workers in the USA are subject to the arbitrary decisions of their superiors and to the hire and fire politics of the company without any protection. It becomes worse in the moment when they start to organise for a union. This tramples under foot all commitments to social responsibility by Deutsche Telekom management.“ Despite various offers from ver.di, CWA and the international federation UNI the Telekom had declined to talk about at the least a neutral stance towards unionisation initiatives in the USA. Instead it continued working with specialists for “union avoidance”. „In this regard, we also expect an engagement of the federal government, Deutsche Telekom’s biggest shareholder.“ added Cohen.

After the protest action, by the way, any freely accessible written material disappeared from the Telekom information stands - maybe the security agents had difficulty to distinguish between official Telekom-PR material and the information items distributed by campaign activists?

Action (so far, Saturday, 17:30) covered by:
“Berliner Zeitung”, Die Welt Online,
Berliner Morgenpost
Germany’s biggest tabloid „Bild”
And Berlins official news portal berlin.de