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Take Action Against Jobcentre Plus

Occupied Times infographic. information available in text form on know your rights page on our website.

Click to see full sized or to print, contact us for leaflets/stickers and more at info@boycottworkfare.org

With up to a million sanctions set to be inflicted on unemployed people this year, Boycott Workfare is joining the call for a week of action against Jobcentre Plus.

As the DWP enforces ever more draconian conditions for claiming unemployment benefits, Jobcentre staff are under huge pressure to sanction benefit claims. This is leading to an unbearable situation for claimants, with hundreds of thousands of people plunged into immediate destitution for increasingly petty breaches of Jobseeker’s Agreements.

Meanwhile Jobcentre workers are placed on Performance Improvements Plans – meaning their own job is threatened – should they not sanction enough claimants. Despite sanction league tables being leaked to The Guardian newspaper, DWP Ministers still dishonestly claim that there are no targets set for the number of claims sanctioned.

The leadership of the PCS, the union which represents most DWP staff, has repeatedly dithered about taking action against this regime which forces workers to bully and harass claimants or face joining them in the dole queue. Fortunately not all PCS members are so reluctant to fight for both their own working conditions and to put an end to the brutal treatment of people whose only crime is to be unemployed, sick or disabled.

The Civil Service Rank and File Network has called for a week of action against Jobcentre Plus beginning on August 5th and to include pickets, demonstrations and occupations of Jobcentres.

Boycott Workfare are joining the call to take action and help bring an end to sanctions, workfare and harassment of claimants. Picket and even occupy your local Jobcentre, or set up an info stall outside to inform claimants of their rights. For leaflets, including copies of the infographic pictured above contact: info@boycottworkfare.org

The action taken by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty against Leith Jobcentre is a brilliant example of the kind of protest being advocated.

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Obi Wan Kenobi

This place uses Workfare for the Mandatory Work Activity, I know this because I'm being sent there for a 4 week MWA.

http://chasbradford.btck.co.uk/FurnitureService

The Sensible One

I've always been a big supporter of yours, and I regularly retweet your posts. But I'm massively against this.

You are fighting for the basic rights for the poorest in society, and that is admirable indeed. But who do you think is going to be hit hardest by this "action"? The exact people you are supporting and working to protects/bring awareness about.

If you protest outside of jobcentres many will shut (they don't need much of an excuse!). Those that don't will still be affected, you'll also create a hostile environment (unintentionally) just by the nature of a big group being there.

It's inevitable that those most in need, people who need emergency loans, or people who have been waiting weeks for their benefits to be processed, or people who just need to sign on to get the only income they have, WILL be affected by this action.

The worst thing is, the most vulnerable people will be those hit hardest (I.E., a person who suffers from mental health issues, sees a big group of people standing outside the JC and decides to walk away, or how about another scenario; a mother who desperately needs money to feed her children and her final option is to pleed for an emergency loan, she turns up at the JC to find it closed by security staff because of protesters!)

Yes, they are extreme examples, and maybe unlikely, but you are making lives more difficult for those whom you are campaigning for. It is madness! It has the potential for massively backfiring if the right-wing rags find a few benefit claimants who were disgruntled by your activities and tell a sob story about how they were denied the only money they have by "a bunch of loony lefty protesters" (which is what the story will become!).

What will this achieve anyway? Nothing! If you want to have any affect why not release a list of employers who using workfare, pick one in each town/city and announce a day of protest in the future. Maybe select different employers in different towns/cities on different days so people can attend more than one?

The civil service battle is nothing to do with your fight. You shouldn't confuse the two nor try to seek an advantage from their struggles. As well as the reasons I've state above, this fight, your fight, can't be part of the civil service. It won't/can't ever be aligned as a struggle.

Joining forces with the civil service will be seen by some (not me!) as the boycott workfare system being aligned with the establishment (many people see the fight in such black and white terms, without any shades of grey. You are either aligned with the establishment, or you are a victim of the environment created by the establishment).

This has the potential to backfire in such spectacular fashion, why risk that (everything you've worked for, all the attention you've created around this issue), for the sake of making some union friends in the JC?

Jeff

Obi Wan

I had a look at the website. No indication at all that they use forced unpaid labour. They provide debt and housing advice. I would be interested in knowing whether they think that the use of forced unpaid labour helps or hinders people keep a roof over their head. Maybe it gets them more furniture from evicted tenants?

editor

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this call-out.

Just to say that we have an up to date list of workfare exploiters here: http://bworkfare.mayfirst.org/?page_id=16 and definitely plan more days of action before long!

The Edinburgh demo didn't prevent anyone signing on, and we're inspired by this story from London Coalition Against Poverty about how well received it was by other claimants when they took a demo of thirty people inside their Job Centre - and how it helped them challenge sanctions for people too...

“After our group had been meeting for a while, we realised that there were many problems which we wanted to challenge. Over several weeks, we put together a list of demands including treating people with respect, providing access to toilets, no more sanctions, and benefits you can live on rather than just survive.

“Then we got in touch with everyone we had spoken to outside the Job Centre and invited them to come and present the demands with us. About 30 of us marched into the Job Centre and demanded to speak to the manager. We were there nearly an hour, speaking to people who had come to sign on or make a phone call, and attempting to get the manager to come and hear what we had to say.

“The police were called and the manager refused to see us. Our meeting decided that we would shout the demands out together and leave on mass. We walked together to an open space and took turns to say what we’d learnt and what we thought we should do next.

“On the face of it, it seemed like we hadn’t made any headway but the following week someone came to our meeting who had been sanctioned for no reason. Just two of us went with her to the Job Centre, and she got a meeting with the manager and an interpreter within a couple of hours.”

David Warriet Edwards

and what did the manager have to say? Don't be misled by the job title: s/he is there only to manage staff and has no input to the executive save being the fall person if her/his Jobcentre becomes notorious. He/she is actually very junior and just a wage slave like the lowliest clerk. IDS et all will be protected from unpleasant news from the ranks. Anyone less senior than Robert Devereux is irrelevant.

editor

London Coalition Against Poverty have found that they have been able to tackle issues at the level of the local Job Centre. The manager has significant power over decisions affecting individual claimants and it can be really effective to put pressure on them.

lewis

is taking action on the jobcentre