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We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show solidarity with Tony and distribute info to claimants urging all to exercise the right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.
As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, its more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.
What Happened At Arbroath Job Centre
On 29 January Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D’s UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.
The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre.
The Right To Be Accompanied
The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirm claimants right to representation. The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”
The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.
- Visit your local Jobcentre on 25th February with banners and placards and distribute leaflets to claimants on Tony’s case and the right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews
- Send a message of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Complain to Noel Shanahan, Director General Operations DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street London SW1H 9NA
- Sign the petition https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/advocacy-is-not-a-crime-1
- There will be a picket of the Forfar court before the hearing on 25 February, by activists from Dundee, Tayside and area – for details contact email@example.com or check https://www.facebook.com/scottishunemployedworkersnetwork or see the Forfar Court Picket event page
Call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
Scottish Unemployed Workers Network http://www.scottishunemployedworkers.net/home/
Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions – On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DundeeAWS
Boycott Workfare http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
Disabled People Against Cuts www.dpac.uk.net
Fuel Poverty Action http://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk
Leamington Claimants Union
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
Anarchist Federation – Bristol and Edinburgh
Plus see more groups giving support at
Anti workfare demonstrators closed down two Edinburgh charity shops involved in the government’s exploitative workfare schemes on Saturday 31st January. Protestors blockaded the entrance to the large Salvation Army shop on Earl Grey Street with a huge banner : IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN. For two hours the shop was virtually empty.
The action then switched to the DEBRA charity shop on Marchmont Crescent, another user of the compulsory “work-for-your-benefits” schemes. Demonstrators briefly occupied the shop, then completely blockaded it, the closure completed by the manager bolting shut the wooden door. Simultaneously protestors besieged the Salvation Army shop in Broughty Ferry, by Dundee.
Half a dozen police were waiting for the demonstrators at the Salvation Army but were unable to break the blockade by around 40 protestors. Unity between the sick and disabled, the unemployed and workers was shown by the banners from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, the Industrial Workers of the World and Black Triangle, displayed alongside placards proclaiming NO WORKFARE – NO SANCTIONS – NO AUSTERITY, and STUFF WORKFARE : NO WAGE SLAVERY : NO DOLE SLAVERY.
“Shut down the Salvation Army workhouse” was the cry from the megaphone, and speeches and chants emphasised that the battle against workfare was part of the wider international class struggle against capitalism. Around 500 leaflets were distributed, declaring “Workfare undermines all workers’ wages and conditions and is an attack on waged and unwaged alike.”
SUPPORT FROM PASSERS-BY
Many passers-by expressed support, one man explaining that his partner, who could only walk with the aid of a stick, was recently told she had to report to the Salvation Army for forced labour, or lose her benefits. The Salvation Army uses the free labour of unemployed people compelled to work for their benefits on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, run locally by Learndirect. It also is a major player in the Work Programme, whereby even sick and disabled people can be forced to work for nothing or face having their disability benefits cut. This action is the latest in a series of demos against the Salvation Army – last year local shop managers claimed they no longer participated in Mandatory Work Activity but in the last few weeks claimants have revealed to ECAP that the Sally Army are indeed still involved.
The demonstrators targetted DEBRA as claimants have told ECAP about their use of Mandatory Work Activity, run by Learndirect. Protestors blockaded their Stockbridge shop in December, after which DEBRA promised to discuss the issue at their UK-wide Senior Management Team. However the DEBRA bosses merely re-iterated their weak excuses for participating in the exploiting schemes. Now they know – if you exploit us, we will shut you down.
Esther McDonald of ECAP said: “We think the action was very successful. We urge all claimants to contact us and get involved in resisting workfare, sanctions, the attacks on sick and disabled claimants and the whole disgusting war on the poor. If every workfare placement was met by even a small demo then workfare could not continue. Waged or unwaged, we are all under attack and need to resist together. Collective direct action can make austerity unworkable.”
Saturday shoppers in Broughty Ferry were met with a picket outside the Salvation Army shop. Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network activists handed out hundreds of leaflets explaining that the Salvation Army uses people who are unemployed and are forced to work for no pay or lose their benefits. Alongside ‘end slave labour’ and similar slogans, placards included biblical texts such as ‘the labourer is worthy of his reward’ (1 Timothy 5:18)
Sarah Glynn, secretary of the SUWN, explained :‘Many big employers have been shamed into stopping this exploitation and over 500 charities have signed an agreement to ‘Keep Volunteering Voluntary’ and not participate in Government workfare schemes. But so far the Salvation Army seems happy to go on exploiting the very people they were set up to help. The SUWN is planning further protests in front of the Salvation Army and other exploiters of forced labour …”
Find Out More
About The Edinburgh Protest
The Edinburgh demos were organised by ECAP and the IWW :
IWW www.iww.org.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Dundee Protest
Dundee protest (Scottish Unemployed Workers Network facebook)
Actions against workfare are happening round Britain – see www.boycottworkfare.org
About Resisting Workfare
This right was attacked by managers at Arbroath Job Centre who on 29 January called the police to arrest a Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist accompanying a claimant. Solidarity demo at Arbroath Job Centre 5th February at 1pm. More info at https://www.facebook.com/scottishunemployedworkersnetwork
Tell Debra and the Salvation Army that they should keep volunteering voluntary and pull out of workfare -
Date: January 31st 2015
Time: 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location: Salvation Army shop, 36 Earl Grey Street, Tollcross, Edinburgh EH3 9BN
Directions: Earl Grey St is an extension of Lothian Rd, its the last block before Tollcross – 10 minutes walk from west end of Princes St.
SHUT DOWN WORKFARE EXPLOITER SALVATION ARMY
The Salvation Army are a notorious user of the government slave labour schemes which force unemployed claimants and some sick and disabled claimants to work for nothing – or face benefit sanctions. This particular Salvation Army shop is currently exploiting claimants forced to labour for no wages on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, run locally by Learndirect.Workfare undermines all workers wages and conditions and is an attack on waged and unwaged alike. Our actions locally have already prompted charities like Cancer Research UK to withdraw from the workfare schemes run by Learndirect. Let’s make workfare unworkable! Our message to rip-off employers is simple – if you exploit us we will shut you down!
All welcome – join the fightback to make austerity policies unworkable.
Organised jointly by ECAP and Edinburgh Branch Industrial Workers of the World
Find out more about this campaign:
Demonstrators shut down workfare contractor Learndirect, as the company cancelled its session for jobseekers forced onto the government’s compulsory work-for-your-benefits programmes. Learndirect’s office in Conference House, Morrison Street was besieged by around 60 protesters denouncing the slave labour schemes. Learndirect are owned by giant private equity firm LDC, in turn part of Lloyds Banking Group, and are providers for both the Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Activity schemes. Continue reading
Forcing people to work for nothing through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong. Forced work for benefits attacks both claimants and workers in jobs. Workfare exploits jobseekers and also many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance. Workfare undermines all workers’ wages and conditions. Join us in taking action against workfare, benefit sanctions and the whole austerity programme. Continue reading
The City of Edinburgh Council have agreed to pay all tenants hit by the bedroom tax the money they need to cover the tax in full, without the need for means-testing or filling in forms. Lothian Anti Bedroom Tax Federation delegates addressed the full Council meeting on 26 June. Following the deputation, councillors unanimously agreed a motion from the Greens Steve Burgess that “all qualifying Bedroom tax (under occupancy) Discretionary Housing Payment applications are appropriately backdated and paid in full without the need for a financial assessment.” Continue reading
Anti workfare demonstrators occupied Learndirect offices in Edinburgh on 12th June. After occupying for an hour, protestors then moved to cover the office entrance with a huge banner declaring IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN. Police attended but the occupation continued despite their presence. There were no arrests. Continue reading
Service users of a Cambridge NHS mental health clinic, ‘Lifeworks’, have been occupying its Tenison Road building for nearly 8 weeks, in a defiant battle to stop its closure. Messages of support can be sent to savelifeworks[at]mail.com and the petition can be signed online. Continue reading