Phone Blockade of BMI – 20 November

November 18, 2008

No Borders Wales is calling for a phone blockade of BMI for 20 November, in memory of their group member and friend, Babi Badalov, who was deported by BMI to Azerbaijan on 20 September 2008.

How does this work?  On 20 November, call, email or fax BMI whenever you can asking them about their policy on whether they will deport asylum seekers.  Try to drag out the conversation a bit if you can – apparently the call centre operatives have been told to hang up as soon as deportation is mentioned, so maybe don’t mention it right away.

Do remember to be polite and courteous to the call centre people – it’s not their fault that the BMI higher ups are happy to send people away from their homes, potentially to their deaths.

 

BMI Contact Details

Head office
Donington Hall, Castle Donington, Derby. DE74 2SB

E-mail Nigel Turner, BMI Chief Executive Officer at:
nigel.turner@flybmi.com

Switchboard
Telephone: 01334 854 000
Open Mon-Fri 8am-6pm

Customer Relations
Telephone: 01332 854 321
Fax: 01332 854 875
Open: Mon-Fri 9:30am-4:30pm

Reservations and general enquiries
Telephone: 01332 854854 & 01332 648181
Fax: 01709 314993
Opening hours: 7am-9pm

Bmi baby reservations
Telephone 01332 648181
Opening hours: 8am-8pm

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12 Responses to “Phone Blockade of BMI – 20 November”

  1. Zenobia Says:

    their group member and friend, Babi Badalov, who was deported by BMI to Azerbaijan on 20 September 2008

    Shit, google image search reveals that I met that guy, he was at the one meeting I went to, he seemed cool. Seems a bit of an understatement to say “sorry he got deported”, but nevertheless, sorry to hear that.

  2. Zenobia Says:

    Although that said – if it was an action for all deportees and not just the guy who happens to be an artist, I might be more inclined to do this.

    Then again, considering I live with a call centre worker, that makes me reluctant to do it at all. Do you realise that they’re being monitored for performance and productivity all day long? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a difficult caller or not, anything bad happens during the call it’s their fault. And it’ll make no difference whether you’re polite or not.

    Especially at a time when so many call-centre jobs are likely to be cut, and when companies would rather find an excuse to sack people rather than give them redundancy packages, I’d really urge you not to do it.

    This kind of illustrates exactly why a political movement made up almost entirely of middle-class people is a bad idea, really.

    Hmm, it’s today so I’m probably too late to say anything now.

  3. Gwen Says:

    The action is in memory of Babi Badalov, but it’s for all migrants in the UK – if BMI stops deporting people, that’s obviously a very good thing.

    I used to be a call centre worker, so yes, I’m aware of the monitoring. That’s why I reminded people to be polite. However, as I mentioned in the post, BMI have put out a policy telling their workers to just hang up if someone mentions deportation. This suggests that BMI are aware that these calls may occur, and that they are not holding the workers responsible. If, despite this, BMI decides to fire staff, they were probably going to use any excuse, and they would have found one anywhere.

    Besides, what would you have us do? I can’t think of a single action, in any context, that might not have a negative impact on someone working-class. If we shut down Yarl’s Wood, the staff will lose their jobs; if we stop the government from starting their “Deportation Airlines”, that’s several potential jobs lost; if we are successful in getting immigration “snatch squads” disbanded, the “snatchers” will lose their jobs.

    Obviously, we have to do our best to minimise the potential harm of any action. But we can’t simply NOT act, and I think that’s where your line of argument will lead. If we don’t do ANYTHING that might potentially harm someone in someway, that we won’t do anything at all.

    Besides which, I think you are underestimating call centre workers. The one I worked at had several immigrants who were quite sympathetic to migrants and also fairly politicised – we organised a union in the call centre. Several of the workers at the BMI call centre might well be secretly in sympathy with No Borders.

  4. Gwen Says:

    I’ve been thinking about your point more, and while I think you raise valid concerns, I think we disagree on two main points:

    1) The idea that by calling BMI we are CAUSING someone to be fired

    2) The idea that there are no consequences to NOT calling BMI.

    I know you don’t explicitly say the second one, but the consequences of not calling BMI are not discussed in your comment.

    1) After your comment, I began to think about what I could do to further minimise any harm. Perhaps write an email to BMI praising their customer service? But then, I realised that, actually, if BMI are determined to fire someone, NOTHING I do will prevent that. And if they are not planning on firing someone, calling their callcentre to complain about deportations won’t cause someone to be fired. My call centre was hyper-exploitative, but they still wouldn’t have fired someone over this, especially if we followed the protocol in place.

    2) It’s possible that someone MIGHT get fired if we call BMI, though as I said above, I don’t think we’ll actually impact that one way or another. However, people will DEFINITELY be deported by BMI if we can’t persuade them to stop deporting people. In fact, 3 people are scheduled to be deported by BMI tomorrow (see above). Mass action that ties up their phone lines and costs them money is a critical to persuading BMI to stop deporting people.

    It’s not that I think you’re wrong about activists being aware of the impact they have on companies’ employees; I agree with you. But I can’t see any other option in this case that isn’t remaining silent while people are sent to their potential deaths.

  5. Zenobia Says:

    Besides which, I think you are underestimating call centre workers. The one I worked at had several immigrants who were quite sympathetic to migrants and also fairly politicised – we organised a union in the call centre. Several of the workers at the BMI call centre might well be secretly in sympathy with No Borders.

    Did I say anywhere that the call centre workers wouldn’t be sympathetic? I know they’re not robots and they have opinions about stuff. In fact, I don’t know what could possibly be in my comment that could be interpreted that way. I mean, my partner is a call-centre worker, and he is sympathetic to No Borders – and I know he’s not just special because I happen to know him.

    It’s not that I think you’re wrong about activists being aware of the impact they have on companies’ employees; I agree with you. But I can’t see any other option in this case that isn’t remaining silent while people are sent to their potential deaths.

    I feel the same way. But, is remaining noisy while people are sent to their deaths going to be much different?

    Why does it have to be middle-class activists bothering working-class people to get anything done? I mean, if you can tell me of one or two times when it’s made a difference, I’ll happily admit that I’m wrong. But there’s something wrong here – why aren’t working class people involved in the activism? Maybe that’s what we should be asking. It’s obviously not because they’re depoliticised or don’t sympathise, you should know I would be the last person to suggest that. So, why?

  6. Gwen Says:

    I feel the same way. But, is remaining noisy while people are sent to their deaths going to be much different?

    Well actually, yes. XL airlines, before they went bankrupt had agreed to stop deporting people. Individual deportations have been stopped before by people calling/emailing/faxing the the airline on or soon before the day the deportation was scheduled to take place.

    I think there’s generally an issue with the lack of working-class involvement in a lot of activist groups. While there are working-class people in No Borders, they’re probably a minority; but then, most people I know in No Borders got involved through university. I also think part of it is due to who can take time out to come to meetings, etc.

    No Borders is a diffuse national network; that means we can’t rally enough people to go stand outside of the CEO of BMI’s house. Any other contact with BMI will be through working-class people because that’s who are on the front lines of ANY company. When Feminist Fightback held protests outside Transport for London in solidarity (and at the request of) the tube cleaners, the security guards responsible for getting them to leave were also working-class.

    Like I said above, I think this is actually fairly low-impact; certainly shutting down detention centres will actually throw a whole bunch of people out of work. But I still believe that the very existence of detention centres is an abomination.

    All of this means that yes, we should do what we can to be more inclusive of working-class people, and to minimise harm our campaigns have on the working-class (ie, supporting retraining schemes for former detention centre guards).

    You still haven’t suggested what we do instead to prevent deportations; especially given that lobbying Parliament is clearly useless.

  7. Gwen Says:

    Also, while most of No Borders is probably middle-class, most of the people I’ve met who work on individual anti-deportation are working-class – they’re rallying around a friend and neighbour. So probably a lot of the calls and faxes being made to BMI today are being made by working-class people. Many of the calls on behalf of Jila Kalkhoran and her sons, for example, will be made by her working-class neighbours in Teeside.

  8. Zenobia Says:

    You still haven’t suggested what we do instead to prevent deportations; especially given that lobbying Parliament is clearly useless.

    And you still haven’t proved conclusively that this action isn’t useful.

    Also, just because I think this action isn’t useful doesn’t mean I know how to prevent deportations. There isn’t a difference between your position and mine here. We both don’t know what to do. I’d rather not take part in an action which I thought was useless and potentially harmful than take part in it just to feel like I didn’t stand quietly by and do nothing.

    As for a more effective action? If we could get a few hundred identical letters onto the complaints desk on the same day, for one week, with all different signatures, you would be attacking the same front (consumer relations) as with the phone calls, except they would end up on the desk of the complaints manager – because there would be a fuck of a lot of them.

    For this you would need to spread the news of what is actually happening in places like Yarls Wood and what BMI and other airlines actually do. I’ve found most people I’ve told are surprised that so many asylum seekers are detained and deported. The right-wing press tells people that they’re being put up in swanky hotels and given jobs in preference over British people. That people want to take something from them, that will get people up in arms and they’ll be glad of deportations. But, no human being will refuse someone who is clearly in need the right to a roof and a meal. I haven’t met a single human being who would refuse another one that, much less send them to their deaths. Couch it in ideological terms, however, and it’s different. But merely putting it in different ideological terms isn’t going to help either.

    Besides, I think shifting the focus of the argument to how many working-class people are involved deflects from the original point we were discussing: that this action is not particularly effective (you might as well be lobbying the guys who make the seat covers in the airplanes), and involves hassling call-centre workers unnecessarily so a group of people will feel that they’ve done something. By saying “but working-class people agree with me, not you”, you’re doing exactly what the radfems do to you all the time. You should also know that when I say an organisation is ‘middle-class people’ I’m not talking about statistics. Remember when I practically lept through the screen and shook your hand because you said ‘hegemony’?

    Whatever the solution is to this (I don’t know if my suggestion would be much more effective than yours), you can be certain that it’s not going to involve a bunch of people wielding words like BLOCKADE! and making consumer complaints to the people who have the least power in an organisation which has a peripheral role in the whole thing.

    I mean, say someone had an ethical complaint about your place of work. Would they try to get to the manager as quickly as possible, or would they make two hundred phone calls to your stationery suppliers instead?

  9. Zenobia Says:

    And, also, if you’re going to tell me BMI profit from deportations, you would be quite right; but given our position in society, you and me profit just as much: in our current position in society, we rely on a whole system of violence and profit to be able to sleep soundly in our beds at night. The standard of living and the security we currently enjoy depends on this stuff happening. Shifting our anger onto BMI is just like punching ourselves in the mirror – but it won’t do anything. We might be ‘good people’ and we might care, but that means nothing if we don’t examine and try to expose exactly what allows this to happen.

    This isn’t just something we say and get on with stuff you know. It’s real. You’re sitting here right now, not while terrible things are being done, but because of them.

  10. Gwen Says:

    The Phone Blockade was organised because BMI have proven less amenable to emails and faxes around individual deportations than other airlines, like Virgin and BA have. BMI deported Badalov after another airline refused to do it because of the amount of complaints they had been getting. So writing a whole bunch of letters to BMI is not going to work. They don’t really care what we think.

    The Phone Blockade is therefore designed to cost BMI money so that it’s no longer worth it to them to continue with deportations.

    Yes, I benefit from deportations, but I don’t think I benefit to the extent that BMI do, and I don’t actually deport people myself, which is exactly what BMI do. If I pledge to not deport people, that makes absolutely no difference to anyone. If all the airlines pledged to not deport people, it would be a lot more difficult for the government to deport people.

    I’m not saying that all working-class people agree with me, and I agree that No Borders is largely middle-class. What I’m saying is that individual anti-deportation campaigns, the people who are rallying around Jila Kalkhoran and urging everyone to call BMI about their deportation, are often largely working-class.

    I do educate as many people as I can about the conditions in Yarl’s wood and about deportations. And you’re right, most people are really shocked (though I have met people who think that those conditions are perfectly OK for asylum-seekers.) And now that they know, they can go and vote for the party that’s against deportations – well, no they can’t, ’cause that’s only the Lib Dems, and they’re pretty sucky for anything else a working-class person happens to be worried about (they’re against the mimimum wage). They can write letters to the airline, who doesn’t care or to the government, which cares even less. Seriously, do you know how many letters Feminist Fightback collected about the HFE bill? We had several MPs backing us, as well – and Harriet Harman STILL shelved debate on the bill. We can go on marches, and I think we agree on how effective that is.

    This is what I learned from my time in a call-centre: anyone who is going to be fired over something like this was going to be fired within a week anyway. There’s a protocol in place. The workers will follow the protocol. Actually, I would have found this a vaguely interesting break from my normally monotonous day, and I wouldn’t have felt like I was being blamed, provided everyone was courteous.

    I think you raise generally good points, and it’s important to interrogate ourselves. But not to the point of paralysis. What allows deportations to happen is the fundamentally racist and excluding construction of “the nation”; and that’s not going to be solved for generations. In the meantime, I believe that the phone blockade of BMI could work. I believe that it could save the lives of Jila Kalkhoran and her children. And I believe it can do so with minimal impact on the call centre workers.

    Yes I’m here because terrible things are being done, which means I have to try to stop them. And that’s what I’m doing.

  11. Zenobia Says:

    The Phone Blockade was organised because BMI have proven less amenable to emails and faxes around individual deportations than other airlines, like Virgin and BA have. BMI deported Badalov after another airline refused to do it because of the amount of complaints they had been getting. So writing a whole bunch of letters to BMI is not going to work. They don’t really care what we think.

    I wasn’t thinking in terms of complaints letters exactly, more in terms of letters a bit like the phone calls, just mentioning deportation, and they’d have to be identical to show an actual organised effort from round the country, and you’d need a few hundred of them to arrive at the same time – just something that would force them to take notice. Otherwise, if they don’t care what we think, the phone calls aren’t going to have much of an effect either.

    Yes, I benefit from deportations, but I don’t think I benefit to the extent that BMI do, and I don’t actually deport people myself, which is exactly what BMI do. If I pledge to not deport people, that makes absolutely no difference to anyone. If all the airlines pledged to not deport people, it would be a lot more difficult for the government to deport people.

    That’s not quite what I meant. I meant that our very existence and security relies on the existence of violence such as that perpetrated by BMI. So in that sense, we don’t really profit from deportations less than BMI at all: that kind of violence is one of the main things capitalist society is built on. We can be against it, and we should be, but, not actually singling out this particular act of violence for a moment, if we abolished all violence of the same calibre, we would pretty much vanish into thin air. So, we do profit from it just as much as BMI, and in that sense, it’s totally arbitrary to make the distinction.

    That said, you’re quite right, for you and me to pledge not to deport people would be nonsensical, since we don’t have the power in the first place, whereas for BMI it’s different. And, as you know, I’m not against acting against deportations, just this particular type of action, for the reasons I already stated.

    I do educate as many people as I can about the conditions in Yarl’s wood and about deportations. And you’re right, most people are really shocked (though I have met people who think that those conditions are perfectly OK for asylum-seekers.) And now that they know, they can go and vote for the party that’s against deportations – well, no they can’t, ’cause that’s only the Lib Dems, and they’re pretty sucky for anything else a working-class person happens to be worried about (they’re against the mimimum wage). They can write letters to the airline, who doesn’t care or to the government, which cares even less. Seriously, do you know how many letters Feminist Fightback collected about the HFE bill? We had several MPs backing us, as well – and Harriet Harman STILL shelved debate on the bill. We can go on marches, and I think we agree on how effective that is.

    But with a bit of organisation, we can all have more political power than just the right to vote. In fact, we probably agree that a vote is about the least powerful thing we can do. The problem, as I see it, isn’t that activism is ineffective and we shouldn’t do it, it’s that we shouldn’t frame it as activism, as something done by activist groups. In fact, we should frame it much as you say: this stuff is going on, and I will try to stop it. Except, in stronger terms, I’d say: this stuff is going on, and we won’t stand for it. The trouble is, it has to be ‘we’ in the widest sense possible, not just ‘we the enlightened in largely middle-class activist groups’. And, when I mention the fact that they are largely middle-class, I’m not trying to prove that working-class people aren’t interested in political stuff because they’re too busy reading the Daily Mail and starving (I mean, I think you know me better by now than to think I would suggest that), I mean that activist campaigns organised largely by middle-class people with little class analysis of who’s actually involved isn’t going to help much. For working-class people to become more involved, there has to be a reason.

    I think if there is one thing middle-class activists have the time and the privilege to do, it’s the kind of organising that gives everyone, not just them, a political voice. I have to say, No Borders are better than most at this. But I don’t think it’s really taken into account, that the groundwork necessary for any effective activism to take place, the absolute most basic thing, is for everyone to have a political voice. Early feminist and civil rights movements understood this, because they didn’t physically have the vote. We do mostly physically have the vote, but there are other ways in which most of us are completely disenfranchised, some more than others.

    So the power that we tend to wield, especially middle-class activists, is often our power as consumers, and our power as middle-class people – in other words, the very powers that are the most oppressive to both us and everyone around us. I can’t go round wielding the very thing that makes people in offices listen to me nicely where they’d talk to the woman next to me in a niqab as if she was three.

    And if you ask “how do we go about this”? as an excuse to prove that it’s not possible and we should keep on the way we’re going instead – Well, what do I look like, Genius McGandhi? That’s exactly what we should be having meetings to discuss, what we should be working through in our writing and thinking and so on.

    Yes I’m here because terrible things are being done, which means I have to try to stop them. And that’s what I’m doing.

    Well, I agree with the first part of that. I just think the trying has to be more than symbolic, and also that to be effective a whole lot of groundwork has to be done that I’m not seeing at the moment. You know, if we could collectively organise our writing, blogging, and thinking the way we collectively organise phone blockades, marches, and thinly-disguised street theatre, maybe we’d get somewhere. I think the mistake is often to mistake that part of the work for inaction, but it’s vitally important, otherwise the rest of the work is totally useless, and might as well be paralysis.


  12. […] December 2, 2008 in Babi Badalov, Shut Down BMI | Tags: deportation, Babi Badalov, Patrick Jones, Lethargy, NewsWales, Indymedia, Pink News, BMI, Shut down BMI Campaign, High on Rebellion, Jila Kalkhoran | by noborderswales The 20th November was the second day of action against BMI, for their part in the deportation of Babi Badalov and their continued willingness to carry out removal flights for the UK Border Agency. Media coverage of the day of action was limited to NewsWales, Pink News, Indymedia and High on Rebellion. […]

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