Second Life solidarity: IBM faces first virtual picket

IBM is a major investor in its presence in Second Life and was one of the first companies to set up a large presence there. Reports have estimated that is has spent $10 million on its Second Life facilities.

IBM workers in Italy have been protesting over pay. They had asked for a salary increase of €60, plus improvements to pension and health rights, according to union representatives at IBM in Italy.

Union official say that the company responded by cancelling a €1,000 per employee 'productive work benefit'. "For a company that wants to lead in corporate social responsibility, this is unacceptable," said Union Network International (UNI), an international affiliation of skills and services workers' unions.

UNI, an international affiliation of trades unions that is backing the action, said that the dispute involves 9,000 workers and that it has spent the past few days training protesters in how to use Second Life.

"We held training sessions until today allowing people to join Second Life and get protest kits for their avatars," Christine Revkin of UNI told OUT-LAW.COM.

"We started at 9am London time and it will finish today at 9pm, so we can cover several time zones since people from 18 countries have expressed interest," she said. "The idea is that people come into Second Life, meet us at a central platform and teleport buttons take them to IBM locations."

"When they reach these IBM locations they will meet other protesters and we will put their banners up and their flying fish with slogans above their avatars' heads and we are inviting them, as well as people who are not in Second Life, to sign a petition that will be sent to IBM European management," said Revkin.

Revkin said that Second Life had been chosen because it was a place where IBM had been investing significantly. "It made sense that we try something original, especially in Second Life where IBM invested so much money and is really building some business there. And unions are often considered to be somewhat backward in terms of technology so it's a way of saying well, we're not, we're also unions 2.0," said Revkin.

IBM declined to comment on the action.