Demonstrators besiege Leith Job Centre – police manhandle protestors out of building
Demonstrators besieged Leith Job Centre in Edinburgh on 11th July to oppose the 30% sanctions target set by a new manager there. Police manhandled protestors who entered the building and announced that the Public Order Act was in force. Part of the Boycott Workfare Week of Action Against Workfare, the demo denounced all work-for-your-benefits schemes, and proclaimed opposition to the whole austerity programme.
Organised by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and supported by Greater Leith Against the Cuts, the demo saw around 30 – 40 people participating including several disability rights activists and several people who signed on at Leith Job Centre. One demonstrator told how she herself had been sanctioned and was surviving on meagre hardship payments. Others recounted how the new Hit Squad at Leith Job Centre were trying to bully and threaten them into signing up to the Universal Jobmatch government job search account and give permission for their jobsearch to be electronically monitored.
It is clear the local manager's declaration that 30% of claimants were not meeting the conditions for receiving Job Seekers Allowance - and therefore should be sanctioned – is being translated into oppressive bullying treatment on a daily basis.
The police were guarding the Job Centre from hours before the demo and with reinforcements arriving police numbers grew to double figures. Some demonstrators entered the Job Centre but were grabbed by police in the foyer and frogmarched out. The policeman in charged declared the Public Order Act was in force and under its provisions ordered people to leave the approach ramp to the Job Centre. Despite this demonstrators crowded round the door, now guarded by a row of police. A cacophony of whistles, spoons beating on pots and chants of “We will not be sanctioned!” and “We won't be your 30%” let the management know claimants would not be passive victims.
DEPARTMENT OF WORKFARE AND PUNISHMENT
Placards and banners declared DWP = DEPARTMENT OF WORKFARE AND PUNISHMENT and NO TO A4ENSLAVEMENT. Before and at the demo hundreds of leaflets were distributed to claimants, advising : “If you have a tricky interview at the Jobcentre, take a friend or adviser with you, this is your right. You have the right to challenge sanctions. Ask for the decision to be reviewed and appeal against it. If need be, we can alert our Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty solidarity network to have a peaceful demo INSIDE the Jobcentre. “ Special leaflets on the Universal Jobmatch explained that the DWP had no right to insist on access your jobsearch and urged claimants to resist being signed up for the scheme.
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty also leafleted the Job Centre workers, appealing to staff : “If Job Centre workers and claimants can join together to resist the attacks that are being made on us all, our fight back will be much stronger.” “We hope you will join us in condemning the work-for-your-benefits schemes. Workfare not only exploits the unemployed, it undermines all workers' wages and conditions. As you will know workfare is even being brought into jobcentres – we have had an unconfirmed report of the potential use of workfare placements at Wester Hailes Job Centre (west Edinburgh).”
The demonstrators denounced the Condem government's austerity programme as an attack on all working class people, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. “We can learn from the resistance in Brazil, Turkey, Spain, Greece and elsewhere - it's no good relying on politicians or leaders, we need grass-roots direct action. It's time to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty firstname.lastname@example.org www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk
Greater Leith Against the Cuts www.edinburghagainstcuts.org.uk
Below: police evict protestors who entered Leith Job Centre
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