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
Date: Saturday 14th February 2015
Location: The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
RIC, STUC, Syriza Scotland, Podemos Scotland and anti-austerity groups set for Valentine’s Day march
HUNDREDS of demonstrators are expected to march from the Scottish Parliament to the Greek consulate on 14 February, Valentine’s Day, to show solidarity with Greece and its Syriza government in its battle with the EU to end austerity measures that, they claim, have impoverished the country.
The demonstration, ‘Democracy vs Austerity: Scotland stands with Greece’, has been called by the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), and is an attempt to swing Scottish opinion behind the radical left Syriza party, which now heads up a government with an anti-austerity mandate following the Greek elections on 25 January.
Jonathon Shafi, RIC co-founder and an organiser of the demonstration, argued that the context of international solidarity is crucial.
“It is vital that the anti-austerity movement all over Europe stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Greece,” Shafi said. “Syriza offers a beacon of hope, but the ECB are unrelenting and viciously opposed to progress based on a social alternative to austerity.
“We can only defeat austerity on an international basis, and that is why the Democracy vs Austerity rally on Saturday is important,” Shafi added.
Syriza are locked in negotiations with the EU over trying to come to an agreement about a financial plan for the country, ahead of a 28 February deadline where, if no deal is done, Greece would effectively default on its debts. Syriza says an end to EU-imposed austerity policies in Greece is essential to end the “humanitarian crisis” in the country, with record breaking levels of unemployment.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), which represents trade unions in Scotland, will also be represented at the demonstration, and General Secretary Grahame Smith believes the Scottish Government and “all of the parties of the parliament” should be backing the Greek Government’s strategy.
“The overwhelming support for anti-austerity parties in the Greek election and the election of Syriza represents a key moment in the battle against austerity economics in Europe,” Smith told CommonSpace. “Their entirely sensible proposals for promoting economic recovery including renegotiation of debt, investment for growth, tax reform and protection of workers and ordinary people – is an entirely orthodox approach that has been championed by mainstream economists globally.
“Working people in Greece did not cause the crisis any more than did workers in Scotland and they should not be bearing the brunt now,” Smith added.
“The STUC calls on the Scottish Government and all of the parties of the Parliament to express its support for the Greek Government’s strategy and to put whatever pressure it is able to on the European and world institutions which make up the Troika”
The Scottish Government has said the Greek election result should be “respected”, but Smith believes it should be putting pressure to bear on the powers at be in Brussels.
“The STUC calls on the Scottish Government and all of the parties of the Parliament to express its support for the Greek Government’s strategy and to put whatever pressure it is able to on the European and world institutions which make up the Troika, as well as the major European powers, to adopt a serious and constructive negotiating stance,” Smith said.
The rise of Syriza from fringe party to government has given a boost to the left across Europe, including in Spain where anti-austerity party Podemos is challenging to become the leading party in October’s Spanish elections.
Podemos Scotland and Syriza Scotland are both supporting Saturday’s demonstration, and Dr Myrto Tsakatika from Syriza Scotland told CommonSpace that there is now a burgeoning European anti-austerity movement.
“The citizens of Greece voted to reverse the politics of extreme austerity. They are fighting tooth and nail to have their democratic right to choose respected. A movement of solidarity is growing across Europe and the world. It is not a just a movement in support of the Greeks, it is a movement to reclaim the power that markets and financial institutions have taken from us. Join us on Saturday, make your voice heard,” Tsakatika stated.
Lynne Henderson, vice chair of People’s Assembly Scotland, an anti-austerity campaign, will also be speaking at the demonstration, and said Syriza’s “stunning election victory is an inspiration to those of us who know there is an alternative to this austerity gloom”.
Henderson added that a note of caution was necessary, as the anti-austerity movement shouldn’t look at Syriza through “rose-tinted spectacles”.
“We must be careful not to only look through rose tinted spectacles and to recognise the economic limits to the concessions that Syriza is offering, the requirement for coalition with right wing forces, the acceptance of Nato membership and so on,” Henderson said. “However, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity Scotland stands with the people of Greece and their democratically elected government in their mandate to oppose austerity. They will be challenged by the Troika, the establishment and by home-grown oligarchs. It is our job to stand with them.”
The demonstration begins at 12 noon outside the Scottish Parliament, before making its way to the Greek consulate at 12 Queens Crescent.
Reprinted with kind permission from Ben Wray @
Find Out More
This Event On Facebook
Radical Independence Campaign
The Common Space
The Common Weal
Scottish Left Project
Date: Thursday 12th February 2015
Time: 8.30am – 10am
Location: City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh
The Council is having its budget meeting on 12/2/2015. On that day it will set its budget for 2015/2016 and will agree on ways to make savings/cuts of £22 million with more and bigger cuts in the following two financial years.
Community and local trade union organisations will be lobbying the Council meeting and we appeal for public support. There will be a lobby outside the City Chambers from 8.30am to 10.00am. Everyone is welcome to attend demanding that there should not be cuts in vital services such as social care.
Edinburgh TUC will ask for a deputation to be heard by the Council. It’s deputation will speak to the paper that Edinburgh TUC has submitted to the Council in response to its budget consultation.
‘We believe that some of the savings/cuts proposed in the Council’s draft budget will have a negative and discriminatory effect on older people, women and disabled people.!
Our overall recommendation and plea to the Council is that its Budget Meeting on 12/2/2015 consider a motion to the Scottish Government demanding extra powers and additional finance to render unfair and counter-productive cuts and savings unnecessary. The Council must call on all Edinburgh MSPs and MPs to support its motion regardless of political party. The Council should convene a civic conference and ask a range of community organisations to back its demand for extra resources. The Council should lead a campaign to make sure we keep the services we need for a decent quality of life. The Council should actively promote good public services whether provided directly by the Council or indirectly by subcontracting.’
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 -
UNISON has reacted angrily to Edinburgh Council’s announcement of 1,200 job cuts over four years. The union has slammed the ‘dressing up’ of cuts as part of so-called new ways of working.
UNISON Edinburgh branch president John Stevenson, said: “These job cuts have come as a body blow to workers who have been struggling for years to maintain front line services despite cut after cut. Dressing this up as new ways of working cannot disguise the reality of cuts to front line jobs and services.
“UNISON will hold the council to its no compulsory redundancy pledge. But if people take go voluntarily, we have to speak up for the staff left behind. In many areas where people directly serve the public we are seeing increased levels of stress. A loss of a further 1,200 jobs will only make this worse as people are again asked to do more with less.
“These are not ‘roles’ as the council says. They are people delivering a service. This is not about a ‘Tesco’ council as some reports say – at least we hope not because Tesco is losing money and shutting stores.”
Branch secretary Amanda Kerr added: “At least half of the posts being cut are front line staff delivering direct services. Two per cent of front line service delivery posts will be cut along with 500 front line team leaders and specialist posts. These are not managers sitting in offices, these are people directly providing services.
“Many more are in customer service. It almost beggars belief that the council expects to improve customer service by cutting customer service jobs. Of course people want to access services on the web but they also want to speak to a person when they need to.”
UNISON’s Tom Connolly who is also staff side secretary for all the Edinburgh council unions, said: “The report is riddled with assumptions, hopes and ambitions but precious little evidence. We are also worried that it displays a lack of understanding of some ‘roles’ and how services need to be delivered.”
“We also concerned that the report leaves the door open for back-door privatisation and hints at challenging the council’s no compulsory redundancy pledge.
“UNISON will engage with the council on its plans but we will also consult our members on what they want us to do. Our annual general meeting in February will decide what we do to resist these further attacks on our members and Edinburgh’s services.”
John Stevenson admitted some sympathy for the council due to central government cuts but called for councillors to stand up for services:
“We have some sympathy for the council because it is cuts from Holyrood and Westminster that are causing the problem. 40,000 jobs have been lost across Scottish councils. If that had been any other employer, politicians would have been queuing up to demand action and a rescue plan. The least that councillors can do is stand up for services and not pretend they can go on cutting and cutting. They should publish a budget that shows what services could look like if these cuts were not being forced.
“We call again for the Scottish Government to make emergency funding available to councils pending the funding review. After all, Holyrood underspent by £444 million last year while presiding over cut after cut to local services and jobs.”
Originally posted by UNISON City Of Edinburgh on January 09 2015.
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:
Following on from the large public meeting on the 27th November this organising meeting aims to bring together activists to plan a campaign against the cuts to vital services being made by Edinburgh Council.The Council is proposing cuts of £22m for 2015/16, as part of a three-year strategy that will inflict further cuts of £55m and £77m in the next two financial years. This will significantly damage services for those most in need and will be resisted.
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
All government departments spin, but the Department for Work and Pensions seems to spin harder and faster than most. Financial Times political correspondent Kiran Stacey describes a typical encounter:
DWP: We’ve got a story for you. Figures show that the benefit cap is working and it hasn’t even been brought in yet.
Me: Really? How do they do that? Continue reading