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- Sept.01.2004: “Whiplash” Wilko The Wilko website boasts of supporting charities, but a closer look reveals that far from helping the poor and needy, Wilko is actually supporting the exploitative and greedy. For example, "Students in Free Enterprise" is a kind of capitalist missionary organisation that includes in its "Dream Team" (board of directors) senior representatives of Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Nestlé, pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, fag company Philip Morris, Shell and Aramark. The crimes of Coke, Nestlé and Shell are common knowledge. The lesser-known Aramark is a US company reaping rich profits from the misery of human incarceration, both in the US and here in the UK, where it has an almost complete monopoly over the lucrative prison "canteen" system. Prison profitability is something Wilko knows all about. It is currently the number-one corporate target of the Campaign Against Prison Slavery (CAPS). In Britain, prisoners are forced to work. If they refuse, they are placed in segregation, lose family visits, and even have their sentences extended. Wilko is not alone; the use of prison labour by private companies has soared in direct proportion to savage cuts in prison education and training during the past 10 years. Companies are using it as an alternative to paying the minimum wage or going overseas. Perversely, the taxpayer is subsiding the profits from this slavery to the tune of at least £7m per year. The Prison Service admits that some of the private companies exploiting prison slave labour are even ripping it off, with firms systematically failing to pay for work. Even the TUC now recognises this is undermining the pay and conditions of workers generally. Tony “Whiplash” Wilkinson presents himself as a benevolent employer doling out jobs and cheap goods to a grateful public; but now we know different. His company refers to its 18,000 non-prison employees as "team members". The workers themselves, however, talk of a ruthless anti-union company that underpays and under-employs. Mark Barnsley, Red Peppper.