Claimants responded to a solidarity call-out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and besieged High Riggs Jobcentre in Edinburgh on the morning of 14th September.  This direct action and solidarity won a tremendous victory as the DWP gave in and agreed that jobseeker Adam could be accompanied to his appointment by ECAP activist Mike, without the requirement to show any ID.

This was a complete U turn from the repressive approach taken by High Riggs management on 10th September.  Then they arrogantly demanded that Adam's ECAP accompanier produce photographic ID, and when this unreasonable demand was refused, called the police to try and evict him. The entire ground floor of the Jobcentre was shut down for 3 hours on the 10th as more ECAP members entered to show solidarity.  The police even threatened jobseeker Adam, as well as ECAP activists, with arrest for "Aggravated Trespass".


Initially the 14th saw Jobcentreplus managers try to maintain this hard line. Manager Aileen McBrierty, flanked by G4S security, stood clipboard in hand at the doorway.  Vetting all entering the Jobcentre, she point-blank refused to permit Adam to proceed to his appointment with ECAP accompanier Mike - Mike however walked into the Jobcentre foyer anyway, and took McBrierty to task over her denial of claimants' human rights.  As he quoted the DWP's own statement that claimants had the right to be accompanied, the crowd moved forward towards the entrance and more demonstrators voiced their anger, demanding to know on whose authority McBrierty was acting.

Edinburgh Jobcentre shut down as claimants insist “Advocacy is not a crime”


The entire ground floor of Edinburgh's High Riggs Jobcentre was closed down for almost three hours on 10th September as Jobcentre managers called in police and refused to permit a jobseeker to exercise his right to be accompanied to an appointment. Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty defied threats of arrest and stayed in the jobcentre to support the claimant and the ECAP advocate.

Now ECAP are calling a solidarity demo for this Monday 14th at 9am at High Riggs Jobcentre, when the jobseeker, Adam, will attend his rearranged appointment, once more accompanied by an ECAP advocate.  ECAP say: “We will not be intimidated by the DWP bullies, G4S security or the police.  We will assert claimants’ right to be accompanied.  The DWP themselves state: "Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf..””


Jobseeker Adam had been called to the Jobcentre for an appointment to review his Jobseekers Agreement.  Having suffered months of harrassment from the Jobcentre, who have been trying to force him onto workfare schemes, Adam asked ECAP rep Mike to come with him.  Having that very morning received the distressing news that his brother was having to undergo a serious emergency operation, Adam asked Gerry, the Jobcentre adviser, if his review could be postponed and if he could just quickly sign on and go to the hospital to be with his brother.  

ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME! Solidarity with Tony Cox, Britain Wide Days of Action, 12 & 13 October

In solidarity with arrested Dundonian welfare advocate Tony Cox from Scottish Unemployed Workers Network(SUWN),  the IWW, Edinburgh Anarchist Federation and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) will join a host of groups (including SUWN themselves) who will take part in Britain wide days of action on 12th and 13th of October in solidarity with Tony.


Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. 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.


Anti workfare demonstrators have won a victory in Edinburgh as the Hospices of Hope charity shop in Stockbridge has withdrawn from workfare. Protestors converged on the shop in Deanhaugh Street on the morning of 29th June, following reports of the charity's involvement in the Community Work Placements scheme.

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty protestors explained to the shop manager how claimants were forced to work for nothing under threat of sanctions, and urged Hospices of Hope to join the near 600 charities who have signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement to boycott workfare.

After a short discussion the manager agreed to withdraw from the schemes, and end all placements immediately. She promised to tell workfare provider Learndirect that the shop would take no more placements.

Now ECAP have approached the other Hospices of Hope shops in Edinburgh, at Tollcross and Gorgie, and urged their managers to take the same principled stand. We are also contacting Hospices of Hope head office to ask the charity as a whole to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.

Buoyed by this success on 29th June, demonstrators next moved a few doors down Deanhaugh Street and visited notorious workfare users DEBRA. The manager here explained that the decision to use workfare came from higher up the charity. A phone call to the DEBRA area manager confirmed their continued use of the exploiting schemes, and as ECAP protestors took up position at the door of the DEBRA charity shop, the manager closed the shop for the duration of the one and a half hour protest.

DEBRA write: " For any concerns or compliments regarding our charity shops please contact"


Anti workfare demonstrators blockaded B and M Bargains in Musselburgh by Edinburgh on 27 June. Demonstrators denounced that the Jobcentre threatens claimants with sanctions to force people to work for their benefits for employers like B and M. Many shoppers turned away when it was explained how the multi-million pound business is exploiting claimants to make even more profits.

Police aggressively tried to clear the entranceway to the shop, pushing demonstrators, but protestors refused to be intimidated, holding the giant banner IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN" across the shop front. Impromptu speeches via the megaphone by several demonstrators called on people to stand together against exploitation, resist workfare and battle for a fair equal world where resources are shared. "Workfare attacks all workers, undermining everyone's wages and conditions".


B and M stores recently won a "prestigious" trade industry award for their use of workfare. The reality is that they use workfare to further exploit their workforce. Whistleblowers have revealed to Boycott Workfare:
“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”
“Older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”

Claimants directly affected by workfare were among those participating - demo organisers Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty support claimants battling against being sent on these exploiting schemes. "We accompany claimants to the jobcentre, to meetings with jobcentre managers, to workfare providers like Learndirect, and if needbe to workfare placements, to back up claimants who are arguing against being sent to do forced unpaid labour. If enough people take action, we can make workfare UNworkable," say ECAP.


Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty calls on all opposed to exploitation to join us in demonstrating against the use of workfare schemes by B & M Bargains this coming Saturday 27 June - meet 2pm onwards at B & M Bargains, 91 - 93 High St, Musselburgh EH21 7DA

B&M Bargains have just won a ‘prestigious’ workfare industry award for their use of forced unpaid labour. We need to let them know this has not gone unnoticed. They need to understand that it is unacceptable to have this sort of exploitation take place in our communities.

B&M bargains are a private, profit making company (they made over £100 million last year) and yet it won’t pay its workers for their labour. People on workfare are given sanctions (loose their benefits) if they don’t work for free, and even when they do work they are sanctioned for ‘misdemeanours’ such as being late.

Apart from exploiting claimants, workfare also undermines the hours and conditions of paid employees at B&M. As with all workfare placements in the private sector, workfare provides free labour that replaces paid jobs.

Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements:

People can only be sent on workfare placements if there is somewhere to send them. Let’s make it impossible to do this!

Not on this street, not in this city!

More info on the Britain-wide Day of Action against B&M, co-ordinated via Boycott Workfare at
Demo supported by Edinburgh Anarchist Federation

Check out ECAP's recently updated info on practical steps you can take to resist, if you are being sent on workfare

Forfar court demo - Solidarity with activist arrested for representing claimant

Solidarity at Forfar CourtSolidarity at Forfar Court

Demonstrators from around Scotland gathered at Forfar sheriff court today 9th June to support activist Tony Cox, arrested for representing a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.

An even bigger protest is anticipated for 23rd June when Tony will stand trial on charges of  “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. 

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker.  "We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented," say SUWN.

UPDATE 22.6.15

The latest news is that when the case calls at Forfar sheriff court on 23rd June, it is likely to be adjourned to a future date.  Thus the demo at the court on 23rd is cancelled, but Scottish Unemployed Workers Network are still calling for protests and leafleting at Jobcentres to show solidarity with Tony.  See up-to-date news on SUWN Facebook

Solidarity with Boycott Workfare against Third Force News smear campaign

The Scottish voluntary sector journal "Third Force News" has been covering the actions of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for a while, in a sympathetic fashion.  Now they have decided to show their real face and have started a smear campaign against groups protesting workfare-exploiting companies. On 29 April they published anonymous allegations of terrorism against the Boycott Workfare campaign group and on 30 April they started a wildly biased poll under the question: "Are anti-workfare campaigners justified in using intimidation tactics?"  

These accusations cannot be justified. In purporting to defend the interests of charities, the TFN piece and the poll attempt to delegitimize direct action and protest against workfare as "intimidation". We believe on the contrary that these tactics are a necessary response to a system in which:

  • Claimants are being blackmailed into working for no wages, for only the benefits they are entitled to anyway.
  • Claimants are threatened with hunger, cold and destitution through sanctions (a breach of our human rights commitments) if they refuse workfare.
  • Claimants are intimidated by Jobcentre staff who are told to deliberately provoke them into incurring a sanction.

Both the article and the poll are based on extremely serious anonymous allegations against Boycott Workfare campaigners.  An anonymous quote from the article accuses campaigners of blackmail.  But a JSA claimant being threatened with a 13-week sanction for refusing to undertake a 4-week Mandatory Work Activity placement would mean losing over £1,000, whereas workfare providers like Learndirect UK get paid several hundred pounds for every claimant they get into a MWA placement, which comes from the UK taxpayer via the DWP.  Blackmail is for financial gain - campaigning against workfare is for human dignity, survival, and solidarity.

Protestors denounce sanctions and workfare at Edinburgh Jobcentre

Demonstrators denouncing sanctions and workfare besieged High Riggs Jobcentre in Edinburgh on Wednesday 29th April. Braving pouring rain, protestors from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and other groups displayed banners and placards and distributed hundreds of leaflets urging claimants to resist benefits sanctions and the government's compulsory "work for your benefits" schemes.

At one point the demo moved temporarily from the Jobcentre front door to the staff car park.  Here, overlooked by the Jobcentre offices, protestors used a megaphone to direct speeches and chants to those inside.  Demonstrators pledged direct action to resist sanctions and workfare, and called for solidarity from Jobcentre workers, pointing out that workfare and sanctions undermine all workers' wages and conditions - workfare is even being used in Jobcentres!

A representative from the Food Solidarity project, who work with Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and supply food parcels for sanctioned claimants, entered the Jobcentre to ask them to take a food collection sack to put in the staff room.  A jobcentre worker initially stated this should be fine, but then a manager ruled that the Jobcentre would not accept the collection sack.


ECAP say: " We support claimants to challenge sanctions and workfare.  Together with the claimant concerned, we recently overturned a 4 week sanction imposed on an Edinburgh jobseeker who had informed the boss at his intended workfare placement, Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre, that the community centre should not be participating in such exploiting schemes.  

If you are sanctioned - dispute the decision, you have a good chance of overturning the sanction and getting your benefits back.  Contact us for support, and see the practical advice here.  If you are sent on workfare, don't just accept it, there are ways to fight back - again, contact us and see the info here.

The tide is turning against workfare - 542 charities and voluntary organisations are now signed up to "Keep Volunteering Voluntary" and are pledged to boycott all forced labour schemes."

Demonstrators to besiege Edinburgh Jobcentre over sanctions and workfare

Demonstrators are set to descend on High Riggs Jobcentre in Edinburgh tomorrow morning to declare their resistance to benefits sanctions and workfare.  The protest at the Jobcentre by Tollcross will continue over lunchtime and organisers Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty say: "We aim to send a strong message that cutting people's benefits and forcing them to rely on foodbanks is not acceptable.  Sanctions and workfare not only attack the claimants directly affected, they undermine all workers' wages and conditions."

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