With a Vodafone sign outside the now closed shop.

We like our tax bills to be paid, yes we do.

Sent to the Head of Security at the Arndale Centre.

“Dear Sir/Madam,

We are writing to you with regard to the conduct of one of your security staff members at the Vodafone demonstration on Saturday the 20th October. As she was not wearing a name badge, we cannot say what her name was, but we have attached a photograph [redacted – details as to where she is in the attached photo].

As we are sure you are aware, several people took the decision to demonstrate at a Vodafone store because of the £6 billion tax bill that Vodafone was let off by the government, in the same week as the Chancellor announced a £7 billion cut to the welfare budget. This is hugely unfair and will render thousands of people destitute, including many of those in work, and hundreds of thousands of people may lose their homes. We therefore felt it was important to hold a peaceful protest in order to express our outrage at this. We had an extremely positive response from the shoppers who passed by the demonstration, and many thanked us for drawing the issue to their attention. Indeed, some spontaneously joined us!

Early on during the demonstration, as security staff were still arriving, the staff member in question was overheard telling another member of staff who had just arrived that the demonstrators had been “shoving at the doors” of the shop and that security had had to hold people back. An impartial legal observer was present at the time and reported that he had not witnessed shoving from any of the parties involved. Contemporaneous notes are available to support this.

We concluded our demonstration at approximately 4pm. One of us (Sarah) then turned to the security member in question and politely asked if she had a Vodafone contract, as we had asked many people that day. This apparently provided her with the opening she’d wanted to rant about what a disgrace we were for depriving someone’s freedom of speech; it seemed someone who objected to the protest had been heckled by a different group who had attended. She claimed that this group had shoved the objector away from a microphone which was being used to address passers-by. At this point, Josie joined the conversation to object to the accusations of shoving, as there had been no physical contact involved (this will be confirmed by CCTV). The member of staff denied having accused anyone of shoving, despite the fact that we had both heard her say it moments before. She continued to say that our demonstration was “pathetic” and “sad” and that we didn’t have the right to protest because “half of you don’t pay taxes or have a job anyway”.

Josie asked what evidence she had that we were unemployed and how that had anything to do with our protest. The staff member then once more denied that she had said any such thing but continued on the same theme and said that our protest was “pathetic” again, because one protestor had received a fine for fly-posting earlier on in the day, and had no way of paying. We tried to ask whether she didn’t find it odd to be denouncing one of our protestors for being fined £50 he couldn’t pay and defending Vodafone getting away with an unpaid tax bill of £6 billion, but she merely continued to call us sad over and over again.

We pointed out that she was as likely to end up unemployed as anyone else, because with the cuts that have just been announced and the subsequent effect they are going to have on the economy and business, nobody’s job is safe; she informed us that “I don’t care, I’ve got a job for life”, because “there are some things which are certain in life, death, taxes, food and securing a building. This mall isn’t going anywhere, they can’t get rid of me.” She then began to ask us why we were still here, and began to make shooing gestures, saying, “go on, you’ve had your little protest, now just go away, go on, just go away”.

We are sure we needn’t point out how discourteous and unprofessional the behaviour of this security staff member was. While some of us may well have an extremely low income, the two of us have personally spent hundreds of pounds each in Arndale shops, as have most of our fellow protestors. Being treated like this by someone who emphasised repeatedly that she was one of your employees has discouraged us from wanting to visit particularly often in the future.

This letter of complaint has been published on SarahMcCulloch.com (8000 hits a month) and via various social networks including Sarah’s Twitter page which has 6700 followers. We would be most appreciative to receive a response detailing what steps you will take to deal with this most unfortunate smear on the reputation of the Arndale Centre; we would be happy to publish your response to the same audience.

We look forward to your reply.

Sarah McCulloch
Josie Czechowicz”

UPDATE – We have received a letter of acknowledgement:

“Dear Sarah,

We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 1st November 2010 concerning an incident which took place on 20th October 2010.

We view this very seriously and will be undertaking a comprehensive investigation of all the facts concerned in this matter and will respond to you early next week.

Yours sincerely,

Glen Barkworth
General Manager”

Vodafone, we pay taxes, why don’t you?

Check out the campaign: http://ukuncut.wordpress.com
See also: Pay your taxes! Vodafone shop shut down in Manchester town centre

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I do enjoy going to protests that go right. And shutting down a Vodafone store last Saturday went very well.

In the same week that George Osborne announced to great applause from his back-benches the removal of £7 billion from benefits and the destruction of the welfare state, HMRC quietly dropped its attempts to force Vodafone to pay their outstanding tax bill of £6 billion. BILLION. £6,000,000,000. So at a time when George Osborne was commending his review to the House, which will result in deaths of hundreds, the destitution of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands, as “bringing Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy”, Vodafone was forgiven a tax bill that would have rendered those cuts to welfare completely unnecessary.

Why? I couldn’t possibly speculate. I merely note that John Connors, a former senior official at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, moved to become Head of Tax for Vodafone in 2007, and since 2010 has been George Osborne’s adviser on corporation tax. I believe that such things in the third world are known as “corruption”, but of course such things never happen in 21st Century Britain.

With a Vodafone tax dodger banner.

Andi is uber-angry about Vodafone stealing £6 billion in unpaid tax...

LOL. Of course they happen, and have happened. Fortunately this story has been sufficiently outrageous that even the average British citizen can’t quite believe that Vodafone has got away with paying the same amount from their profit margin that is now being taken from the hands of people who desperately need it in the name of “dealing with debt”. Spontaneous protesters shut down the flagship Vodafone store on Oxford Street last week and there was a subsequent call for sit-ins across the country at Vodafone stores last Saturday, the busiest shopping day of the week. 21 stores were shut down in places as diverse as London, Oxford, Worthing, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and of course, Manchester.

Vodafone do our work for us and shut the shop.

Vodafone do our work for us and shut the shop.

Given that the Manchester demo was organised at 9pm the night before, we managed a pretty respectable turnout. The Vodafone store had obviously had prior warning and was already closed and shuttered – but we still stood outside it for 4 hours, chanting and leafleting. The response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive: most were horrified at the amount of money involved and thanks us for demonstrating, several asked me what they could do to get involved, others announced they were going to switch from Vodafone immediately, and one or two spontaneously joined the protest. Sadly, we also had to deal with an Arndale security staff member who told us we were “pathetic” and “sad”, and that she didn’t care about the cuts because she had a “job for life” because “there are four things which are certain in life, death, taxes, food and securing a building”: I would add that another thing that is certain in life is “your line manager receiving a complaint letter if you are a obnoxious moron to me”. But besides that, it was a good day.

With a Vodafone sign outside the now closed shop.

We like our tax bills to be paid, yes we do.

It was, however, an isolated protest. Vodafone’s tax dodge has cost us £6 billion, but as I heard Graham Turner say at the Education Action Network the day after, Vodafone is only one company. Every billion the multinationals save from legal loopholes and negotiations with the government to cancel their debts is another billion stolen from the public services that are used and needed by all of us.

George Osborne’s “reforms” are going to effectively fire 1 million people, who won’t be able to access the benefits they need to support themselves because he’s removed those as well. If you don’t want to be one of them, I suggest you start organising.

Vodafone, we pay taxes, why don’t you?

Check out the campaign: http://ukuncut.wordpress.com

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