Category Archives: Fighting Back

Freud Must Go! Urgent Call Out, Monday Oct 20th Caxton House 12.30pm Or On Twitter #FreudMustGo

lord-fraud-freudAnyone who thinks Lord Fraud ‘mispoke’ or was just ‘thinking outside the box’ when he made the shameful comment that some disabled people are not worth the minimum wage has really not been paying attention.

This is the man that helped devise the despised Atos benefit assessments that have driven disabled people to suicide and ill health in the name of strippping their benefits or forcing them into endless ‘work related activity’.  The same Minister whose department introduced the Work Programme, on which sick and disabled people can be sent on workfare, potentially for months on end.  Lord Fraud was simply saying what he, and his colleagues in the DWP believe, that disabled people lead ‘wasted lives’ and as such do not deserve the same rights as other workers.  That is why this Government has introduced scheme after scheme aimed at coercing – and in some cases forcing – sick and disabled people to work without any pay at all.

There doesn’t need to be a conversation about what Lord Fraud said, as some commentators have suggested.  A conversation that is unlikely to include disabled people or claimants themselves if this week’s news coverage is anything to go by.  The man is a nasty and vindictive piece of shit.  And he needs to go, now.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have called an emergency protest calling for his resignation tomorrow (Monday 20th Oct) at 12.30 pm outside the Department of Work and Pensions in central London.  In the words of DPAC:

“Freud is the architect of the government’s noxious welfare reform programme that is pushing disabled people off benefits and causing untold distress and misery, in too many cases leading to suicides and avoidable deaths.

The policies Freud designed show utter contempt for disabled people. His latest comments made to a Tory councillor at a party conference fringe meeting confirm this …  join us to demand Freud resigns or is sacked. Monday October 20th at DWP head office, Caxton House, Tothill Street, 12.30pm til 2.30″

If you can’t make it to the DWP you can still get involved in online action with the #FreudMustGo twitterstorm, details at: http://dftr.org.uk/Songbird.php?TweetFile=FreudMustGo

Time is short, please share, tweet etc and help get the word out.

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Don’t Be Bored By The TUC, There’s More Than Just A March Happening In London Tomorrow

poor-doors-flyer

Tomorrow lots of people will be marching through London on the TUC’s Britain Needs A Pay Rise demonstration.  Sadly this slogan does not apply to those on TUC backed work experience schemes or Traineeships on which people don’t get paid at all.

Still many will wish to march anyway to show their disgust at the current austerity policies that are destroying so many lives.  But if you’re coming into  central London for the march why not make a day of it.  Instead and standing around at the end listening to a bunch of boring old bastards making speeches about action that will never materialise, jump on the tube over to East London where the annual Anarchist Bookfair will be taking place.

As well as lots of books, and other info stalls, many groups will be holding meetings and workshops, including Boycott Workfare at 2pm and the Focus E15 Mothers along with Action East End at 5pm.  See the website for full details of everything taking place.

Then, just down the road at 6pm, the biggest demonstration against the Poor Doors so far will be taking place.  Weekly protests have been held outside the plush yuppy tower block at 1 Commercial Road, E1 after it was revealed those living in the handful of social housing properties in the building are forced to use a different entrance to the latte slurping  twats who live in the posh flats.  With thousands of people from around the country coming to London this weekend, this is a chance to take the biggest stand yet against this form of social apartheid.

It’s time to move beyond marches and the same old political speakers giving the same old speeches.  We may not yet be at the point of “devastating the avenues where the wealthy live”, as once called for by famous American anarchist Lucy Parsons.  But we can certainly noise the bastards up a bit.

lucy-parsons

The Anarchist Bookfair is held this Saturday 18th October from 10am-7pm at the Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS.  The entire bookfair is wheelchair accessible and there will be an access point on the day.  There is a  creche for younger children and a kid’s space for those over 8.  For more info check their website.

The Poor Doors demonstration will be held at 6pm outside 1 Commercial Street, directly above Aldgate East tube station.

Then on Sunday 19th October an Anarcha-Feminist conference is being held at the same venue as the bookfair – Queen Mary University.  For more details visit their website or follow them on twitter @AFem2014.  Please help spread the word about all events.

The TUC march will be forming up at Victoria Embankment from 11am and will be heading to Hyde Park.

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

A Visit To Urban Futures Shows The Nasty Side Of Charity Workfare

workfareprotest-11

Boycott Workfare and Haringey Solidarity Group today occupied the premises of Urban Futures in protest at ther involvement in the government’s Community Work Placement scheme – better known as workfare.

Hidden away on an industrial estate in Wood Green London, Urban Futures run a training centre where unemployed people are sent by Jobcentres to be processed and referred to workfare with local so-called charities.  Today protesters visited the company with the aim of speaking to the inmates forced to attend under threat of benefit sanctions.  On entering the offices, one person politely explained the reason the action was taking place whilst others began to hand out leaflets.

The mood quickly turned ugly.  Urban Futures staff, presumably furious at having their authority undermined, began tearing up the campaigners leaflets whilst others started grabbing and illegally seizing personal property.  Protesters were repeatedly pushed and manhandled whilst one management looking type laughed at how he enjoyed profiting from harassing and bullying unemployed people.  Others made snide remarks about protesters getting a job, showing their true attitude to the people they pretend they are supporting.

Very soon around a dozen police turned up and seemed slightly bemused at the over the top reaction from Urban Future’s pumped up employees.  At this point campaigners decided to leave, with property such as phone and bags eventually reluctantly returned.

Even outside some of the staff at Urban Futures seemed determined to throw their weight around.  When campaigners stopped to talk to some claimants having a fag, the company’s employees immediately ordered their inmates not talk to them and tried to usher them inside.  One jumped up prick then informed us that these people were taking part in work related activity and were therefore not allowed to talk to anyone.  Really.

People sent to Urban Futures are forced to work for six months or face desperate poverty as their benefits are sanctioned as part of George Osborne’s misnamed ‘Help to Work’ scheme.  Nobody looked like they were being helped today, except for Urban Futures who are helping themselves to a huge chunk of tax payer’s money.  Instead the environment resembled an open prison, with people shoved into rooms to hang about waiting before they are finally shipped out as forced labour for local charity shops like the one run by North London Hospice who face a protest of their own this Saturday.

Urban Futures have a half-arsed social media presence on facebook and twitter @urbanfuturesuk

There’s still time to get involved in the Week Of Action Against Workfare, keep an eye on Boycott Workfare’s website for the latest news.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

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Take Action: Bring Down @GroundworkUK’s Community Work Placements in the North East

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

From Boycott Workfare

Community Work Placements would collapse without support from major charities. Today, as part of our week of action, we are contacting the major charities who provide CWP placements for Groundwork in the North East of England (six months’ workfare for 30 hours per week). We’re asking them to commit to not taking part in any of the government’s workfare schemes.

Yesterday, the website of Groundwork North East listed all the charities providing them with placements. These include Cheshire Homes, British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s and Scope, as well as over 15 more local voluntary agencies in Redcar or who are part of Redcar Voluntary & Community Sector. As Groundwork also say, as well as having a ‘fantastic working relationship with the local job centres’, they work in close partnership with Christians against Poverty and local food banks.

What they don’t say is that workfare is a major cause of poverty and a major reason why people end up depending on food banks for food. We know how Community Work Placements are being marketed to employers as a way of replacing paid jobs.

Groundwork have since removed the webpage – but we’ve got a screenshot (click on the image above to enlarge it).

The involvement of well known national charities is disappointing. BHF have previously stated “We are not involved in the Help to Work scheme. Barnardo’s have said “Barnardo’s does not take part in any mandatory work activity. We have been clear that we are against the principle of benefits sanctions”. Scope are signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, which commits them to not taking part in any government workfare scheme.

So what’s going on? It looks like the culture of secrecy surrounding workfare (e.g. the refusal of Freedom of Information requests, redaction of placement providers from contracts on the grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity) is enabling placement brokers like Groundwork to mis-sell forced labour as volunteering.

We have to ask: is this secrecy compatible with the duty of charities to be open and honest about their activities? To ensure that the public, who donate to charities, are fully aware of whether they do, or do not, support forced unpaid labour in any guise?

We understand that because all aspects of workfare are cloaked in secrets and lies, some charities providing placements may well have been misinformed. It can be especially difficult for small, local charities to avoid being deceived. But if an organisation gets a letter that refers to the same group of people as ‘unpaid employees’, ‘volunteers’, and ‘unemployed people’ – and emphasises that the organisation won’t have to pay anything for them (even travel costs) – then alarm bells should start ringing. And when well known workfare fixers like Groundwork get in touch, it’s more than likely it’s for placements for JSA claimants who’ve already been unpaid on the work programme and are now being sent on CWP for up to six months more unpaid labour.

As for British Heart Foundation, Barnado’s and Scope: you can let them know that the public expect them to honour their commitments not to take part in workfare. And expect them to remember that they have a duty of care towards those on current placements: these organisations must ensure that they do not face sanctions or suffer as a result of the organisation withdrawing.

You can send a message to BHF via their website or phone their head office on 020 7554 0000. You can tweet at them @TheBHF

You can phone Barnado’s North East regional office on 0191 240 4800, contact them on Facebook and tweet at them @Barnados

You can get in touch with Scope’s media and PR via email pasca.lane@scope.org.uk and tweet at them too @scope

Groundwork North East can be reached on the phone (01388 662 666), on Facebook, and on Twitter @GroundworkNE

And Groundwork UK are on Facebook and Twitter aa @GroundworkUK . Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565). They have other local branches throughout the UK. To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.

Please feel free to contact the other placement hosts listed on the Groundwork North East website as well. There’s not many, and if half pulled out, Groundwork’s CWP contract would be ruined.

I missed yesterday’s online action, but you can still tweet using hashtag #HospiceCareWeek and ask hospices not to be involved in government workfare schemes.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action Against @GroundworkUK: No Grounds For Greenwashing Workfare

groundworkuk-ruining-livesFrom Boycott Workfare

Groundwork boasts of its involvement in workfare. Join in with an online blockade of their social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.  

Take online action today against Groundwork, the green charity using unpaid labour. Branches of Groundwork up and down the country openly advertise their involvement in all kinds of workfare, including the latest and most exploitative programmes.

Charities and voluntary organisations should know the value of volunteering. Instead Groundwork is taking thousands of unemployed people on workfare placements with no pay and putting people at risk of sanctions. According to their own statistics they forced 4,500 people through workfare last year alone. They trade on the goodwill of their ‘volunteering’ projects to secure government money for unpaid labour schemes.

Groundwork is also taking part in the latest draconian scheme, Community Work Placements (CWP), as a sub-contractor of G4S in Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. CWP is a six month long placement – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime.  Workfare criminalises unemployed people and then punishes them more harshly than other people who are forced to work for free. It does this without even the appearance of judicial process: people are punished just because they’re unemployed.

More than 400 charities and 22 councils have rejected CWP and other workfare schemes by signing the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge. They understand that workfare is punitive and that it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Following the latest attacks from the government on unemployed people, in which the Tories are promising to cut benefits and roll out more of the harsh schemes like the ones Groundwork provides, we need to show those involved in workfare just how unacceptable it is.

A lot of green charities and recycling companies are involved in workfare schemes. The environment is a useful alibi for forcing people to work for free, because it makes it easy to claim that the work unemployed people are doing is for “community benefit” – which it is supposed to be, if the scheme is one that people can be directly forced to do, like CWP or Mandatory Work Activity.  This is why there’s so many environmental charities, city farms, and recycling firms on our list of workfare exploiters.

Workfare schemes cannot operate without charities that are willing to take on unpaid workers, but Groundwork’s involvement is deeper: they help organise the schemes as well. Groundwork say they recognise that Jobcentre Plus is enforcing a “stricter application…of conditions and sanctions”, but they continue to help to run this punitive system anyway. Let them know about the hardship and destitution that benefit sanctions are causing. Let them know that forcing people to work under threat of destitution for no pay is wrong.

Groundwork are on Twitter  @GroundworkUK and on Facebook here.

Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565).  They have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action! Challenge The TUC’s Support For Workfare: @PayRise4Britain Must Mean Wages For Everyone

traineeships-300x257From Boycott Workfare

Challenge the TUC’s support for workfare, on the first day of online action for the Boycott Workfare week of action

On 1 August 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16-23 year olds and “show support” for the businesses that benefit from the unpaid labour on this scheme.

Traineeships involve training and “work placements” for up to six months – all unpaid. The TUC’s Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak hails Traineeships as “an important first step towards the world of work”. But in giving a green light to a new layer of unpaid work in the economy, the TUC is in fact helping to shrink opportunities for young people, undermine the going rate, and replace paid work with workfare.

Traineeships mean that young people are now expected to work unpaid for six months before even qualifying for an interview for an apprenticeship. The lucky few who make it through the interview can look forward to a minimum wage of £2.73 an hour, as an apprentice.

TUC A5 Protest

If a young person does not take part in the training, they face punitive sanctions. The work placement segment itself may not be backed with the direct threat of sanctions, but, between the economic coercion of a jobs market with so few footholds and the draconian job centre regime, few people will feel able to turn them down.

Instead of demanding decent wages, the TUC is supporting McDonalds, Toyota, Virgin Media, BT, Vodafone, Phones4U, Siemens, Capita, local councils and many more being supplied with unpaid staff for up to 6 months on benefits alone, without any obligations to hire them!

The TUC plans to march behind the slogan “Britain needs a payrise” on 18 October. It seems to have chosen to ignore the millions of us who do not have paid work and instead face workfare and sanctions.

Today as Kilburn Unemployed Workers protest this shoddy deal outside the TUC HQ in London, please contact the TUC via the details below, or through your union networks.  

When challenging their support for Traineeships, you might also like to point out that:

  • The TUC’s support for Labour’s Job Guarantee means undermining the going rate and minimum wage too.
  • The TUC’s support for benefit sanctions is totally unacceptable. It has recommended that ‘claimants who turn down a job guarantee job without good cause should face benefit sanctions’. Let the TUC know that punishing people by taking away their means to survival can never be okay.

Contact the Assistant General Secretary who issued the statement with CBI by email: pnowak@tuc.org.uk or send him a tweet: @nowak_paul

Tweet at Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC: @FrancesOGrady 

Tweet at “Britain needs a Payrise” @PayRise4Britain or post on its Facebook

Post on the TUC’s Facebook page

Or get in touch with the TUC’s press officers who released the statement:

Rob Holdsworth    T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150     E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Tim Nichols   T: 020 7467 1337   M: 07876 452902   E: tnichols@tuc.org.uk

If you’re a member of a trade union, please download and adapt this motion to challenge the TUC’s support for sanctions and workfare.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

2000 Workfare Staff Planned For Tax Office Next Year, And The PCS Union Is Doing … Nothing At All

TUC-A5-ProtestThe TUC’s recent grovelling endorsement of unpaid – and soon to be mandatory – Traineeships has caused dismay amongst many in the trade union movement with protests even planned outside their London offices.

This is not the first time to TUC have enthusiastically backed unpaid work.  Last year they were involved in the ‘week of workfare’, a shabby inititiative organised by the DWP funded Fair Train to rehabilitate workfare by introducing a quality standard for so called work experience schemes.  The whole thing turned out to be an embarrassing flop for everybody involved, but showed just how far the TUC are prepared to go to support the very same kind of unpaid work experience that they rightly oppose when it comes to graduates working as interns for no pay

Anger at the TUC’s latest announcement even emerged at last month’s conference when the PCS Union accused them of breaking their own policies that all work experience schemes should be both paid and voluntary.  No-one knows better than the PCS, who represent thousands of DWP staff, that no current Jobcentre schemes are genuinely voluntary.  Whilst claimants live in fear of being plunged into destitution by benefit sanctions for something as simple as being late to a meeting, it is hardly surprising some may agree to so-called non-mandatory workfare.  If they refuse they could simply be sent on mandatory workfare somewhere else, or face being cooped up in a Jobcentre for 30 hours a week for the next six months.

Sadly however, information has come to light that once again the PCS Union are all mouth and no trouers when it comes to opposing workfare and sanctions.  HMRC are currently planning to recruit over 1000 young unemployed people this year – and double that in 2015 – to work in the tax office for up to six weeks without pay.  This comes despite job losses at HMRC and there is already evidence that these new workfare staff will be replacing the roles of formerly paid employees.  According to rank and file PCS activists, during a pilot of this new scheme: “those brought in on workfare … were given jobs involving ‘filing, linking, correspondence and data entry.’  In other words, the jobs currently done by the AA grade who are being culled wholesale through post room digitalisation and privatisation as well as office closures.”

The DWP have also had their fair share of workfare staff which so far the PCS have failed to do anything about, although they are pretending they have.  In a briefing for members sent out in 2012, the union boasted that they had negotiated that “that DWP hosted work experience placements do not exploit those who take them up.”

It is hard to understand exactly how the PCS think that  young people bullied into working without pay are not being exploited.  That’s young people like Nisha, who was forced to spend the day on Twitter promoting unpaid work on behalf of Iain Duncan Smith.  Despite doing a far better job of dodging objections to workfare than the chinless pricks currently occuying the DWP Press Office, Nisha was not paid a penny for her work.

The PCS claim to oppose benefit sanctions, but have done nothing practical to end this practice that their members administer in Jobcentres.  They also claim to oppose unpaid work, yet the workplaces they are strongest in are riddled with workfare.  And opposing workfare means more than just making speeches or getting leaflets printed.  In the words of some grassroots PCS members this means:

“HMRC offices which utilise workfare placements need to be targeted for staff walkouts and external protests. Directors who sanction workfare should be faced with communication blockades. Those brought in on workfare need to be informed of their rights and supported by the union in every way possible. Strikes and industrial action on the job need to disrupt the day to day running of things in the fight over jobs and staffing.”

Or as some unions point out, the answer to unpaid work is simple:

As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare,  Kilburn Unemployed Workers have called a protest this Monday (tomorrow 6th October) outside the TUC’s main offices in London in response to this craven betrayal of young people’s right to be paid for the work they do.  Meet at 1pm outside Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS.

Events are planned to oppose workfare throughout next week and throughout the UK, visit Boycott Workfare’s website for full details and spread the word!

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid