Demonstrators shut down workfare provider Learndirect in Edinburgh

9th October, Edinburgh:
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.
Blockading workfare exploiter LearndirectBlockading workfare exploiter Learndirect
Employees from Zion Security were brought in especially to guard the building and police attended.   The large Regus business centre housing Learndirect saw normal comings and goings virtually grind to a halt.  When demonstrators discovered a few visitors were sneaking in the back entrance, we set up a picket there too, and two cars were blockaded.

Demo organisers Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and supporters from the capital were joined by contingents from Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions, Glasgow Anarchist Collective. and Scottish Unemployed Workers' Network Speakers explained that the workfare schemes not only exploit the jobseekers and disabled claimants forced to labour for nothing, they also attacked the wages and conditions of all workers. 

The speakers were upbeat: “We are winning the battle against workfare.”   Over 400 charities have declared they wish to “keep volunteering voluntary” and are boycotting all workfare schemes - including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Edinburgh Volunteer Centre, Shelter and Christian Aid.  A member of Voluntary Action Scotland picked up campaign material to take back to a nearby conference of charities and NGO's.  Cancer Research UK, after being approached by ECAP, recently told Learndirect they no longer wanted any of their workfare placements.

SHUT DOWN LEARNDIRECT! LET'S MAKE WORKFARE UNWORKABLE!

Occupation of Learndirect Edinburgh officesOccupation of Learndirect Edinburgh officesGather at Learndirect, Conference House, 152 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EB.
12 noon – 2pm Thursday 9th October

Organised by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty as part of the “Boycott Workfare”  Week of Action Against Workfare 4 – 12 October

Forcing people to work for nothing through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong.  Forced work for benefits attacks both claimants and workers in jobs.  Workfare exploits jobseekers and also many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance.   Workfare undermines all workers' wages and conditions.  Join us in taking action against workfare, benefit sanctions and the whole austerity programme.

Learndirect are the workfare providers for the compulsory “work-for-your-benefits” schemes Mandatory Work Activity and the new Community Work Placements scheme, which forces jobseekers to work for nothing for six months.  Learndirect profit from the forced labour schemes and shamelessly refer jobseekers for sanctions, making people penniless to try and intimidate jobseekers to submit to forced labour. 

SHOP A WORKFARE EXPLOITER! Forced to work for benefits ? Fight back!

Tollcross, Edinburgh Salvation Army shop besieged by anti workfare protestorsTollcross, Edinburgh Salvation Army shop besieged by anti workfare protestorsTell Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty the names of any charity or company using the exploiting workfare schemes. You can do this anonymously, and we never reveal our sources.

We will contact the workfare user and explain why they should stop. If they don't, we can then denounce them on social media, and organise demos against them. We have blockaded and occupied workfare users like the Salvation Army, Tescos, British Heart Foundation, Poundland etc, shutting them down for periods of time.

We are especially keen to learn which organisations the workfare provider Learndirect are using for Community Work Placements. This disgusting new workfare scheme forces people to work for their benefits for six months. But it's only just starting, and has had a lot of problems and delays, so if we step up the action against it there is a chance of stopping the scheme in its tracks.

Information on workfare users will be especially useful in planning our Edinburgh actions during the Boycott Workfare Week of Action from 4th - 12th October.

EDINBURGH COUNCIL AGREE TO COVER BEDROOM TAX FOR ALL TENANTS

The City of Edinburgh Council have agreed to pay all tenants hit by the bedroom tax the money they need to cover the tax in full, without the need for means-testing or filling in forms.

Lothian Anti Bedroom Tax Federation delegates addressed the full Council meeting on 26 June. Following the deputation, councillors unanimously agreed a motion from the Greens Steve Burgess that “all qualifying Bedroom tax (under occupancy) Discretionary Housing Payment applications are appropriately backdated and paid in full without the need for a financial assessment.”

This means no-one in Edinburgh needs to pay the bedroom tax shortfall in their Housing Benefit – it will all be covered by the Council paying Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). “Any tenants still being affected by the Bedroom tax should apply to the Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment right away,” say the Lothian Anti Bedroom Tax Federation. “This DHP should be paid on the basis you need it to cover Bedroom tax. The Council have now agreed you do not need to fill in any forms about your income and expenditure or savings or anything like that.”

DEMONSTRATORS OCCUPY WORKFARE EXPLOITER LEARNDIRECT

Anti workfare demonstrators occupied Learndirect offices in Edinburgh on 12th June.  After occupying for an hour, protestors then moved to cover the office entrance with a huge banner declaring IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN.  Police attended but the occupation continued despite their presence.  There were no arrests.

Occupation of Learndirect's Edinburgh officesOccupation of Learndirect's Edinburgh offices

Learndirect recently won the DWP contract to run the new Community Work Placements workfare scheme in Scotland, and are also the Edinburgh provider for Mandatory Work Activity, another workfare rip-off.  "We aim to make Community Work Placements and all workfare schemes UNworkable" state demo organisers Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.

Community Work Placements forces unemployed people to work for SIX MONTHS for nothing - under threat of benefits being stopped.  But many think the scheme is in real difficulties, as many charities are now boycotting workfare, signing up to the "Keep Volunteering Voluntary" pledge.  Edinburgh Council has declared it will not use workfare.  We call on workers to pressurise their employers not to participate in workfare.  And we give notice that any employers who do exploit claimants through workfare, whether they be charities, private companies or state bodies, can expect direct action - if you exploit us, we will shut you down.

Workfare exploiter Learndirect rent their offices in Conference House, 152 Morrison Street, The Exchange, Edinburgh, EH3 8EB. This big office block is owned by multinational Regusand the occupation of their office foyer clearly had a big impact on the Regus staff.  All visitors to any of the many companies based there had to squeeze past demonstrators, police and a multitude of banners and placards to enter…. People may wish to ring Regus’ Edinburgh offices on 0131 200 6000 to advise that they should give Learndirect the boot - or expect more anti workfare occupations of their offices.

Anti Workfare protestors shut down Salvation Army store in Edinburgh

Anti workfare blockade of Salvation ArmyAnti workfare blockade of Salvation Army

 Anti workfare protestors blockaded Edinburgh's main Salvation Army shop for three hours on Saturday 5th April. Demonstrators defied police to hold a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN right across the Earl Grey Street shop's front door.

Dubbed The Starvation Army, the charity is heavily involved nationally in the government's exploiting work-for-your-benefits schemes and in Edinburgh is a major abuser of claimants forced to labour for nothing under the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, taking conscripts ordered there by learndirect. Claimants who decline to be exploited in this way face having their benefits stopped.

Protestors from demo organisers Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, and from Black Triangle, the Industrial Workers of the World, Disability History Scotland, the Anarchist Federation, Greater Leith Against the Cuts and other groups and individuals ensured the shop remained virtually free of customers over the normally busy lunchtime period.  We were aided by the shop manager, who locked the door!  Two women turned away and took their bag of donations to the nearby Shelter shop when they heard of the Sally Army's exploiting practices.

Hundreds of leaflets were given out, stressing that workfare is an attack on the wages and conditions of all workers.  Several new people signed up to Edinburgh Coalition Ágainst Poverty's Solidarity Network.

ANTI WORKFARE ACTION - Saturday 5th April

If you exploit us we will shut you down – shut down workfare exploiter Salvation Army.
11am onwards Saturday 5th April, continuing over lunchtime
At Salvation Army shop, 36 Earl Grey Street (continuation Lothian Rd, by Tollcross)  EH3 9BN.
Organised by Edinburgh Coalition Against Povery as part of the week of action - 29 March - 6 April - against workfare called by Boycott Workfare

Workfare – forced labour for your benefits under threat of sanctions – attacks both the unemployed and workers in jobs, undermining everyone's wages and conditions.

The Salvation Army is one of the main users of workfare in Edinburgh and Britain-wide, and ECAP has supported several claimants resisting being sent to do forced upaid work in their shops.

But we are winning the fight against workfare.  Dozens of organisations have already quit. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.

But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching in April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

Anti workfare flying pickets rock Salvation Army in Edinburgh

Anti workfare campaigners swooped on four Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh on 3rd March, blockading them all and turning away customers and a delivery lorry.  Salvation Army managers were visibly rattled as a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN blocked the entrance to their shops.


 The manager at the Bruntsfield Place shop the Salvation Army mhreatened: “I'm one of the more serious managers.  I'll get a group of people to come and kick your heads in if you don't move from in front of my shop.”   The demonstrators from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty maintained their blockade of the entrance and shortly afterwards turned away a lorry from Nathans Wastesavers textile recycling company.   Animated debate continued in the street outside the shop as a pro-workfare passer-by was berated by another passer-bywho recounted his experience in the local Salvation Army hostel, where he claimed the management took half of residents benefits to pay for their accommmodation.


 Anti-workfare blockade of the Salvation Army shop - Earl Grey Street


Anti-workfare blockade of the Salvation Army shop - Earl Grey Street


 SUCCESSFUL

DWP APOLOGISE FOR CALLING POLICE – RIGHT TO BE ACCOMPANIED AT JOBCENTRES AFFIRMED

The DWP have apologised and admitted they were wrong to call the police to eject an Edinburgh Claimants representative from the High Riggs Job Centre at Tollcross, Edinburgh.  This re-affirms that claimants always have the right to be accompanied by their own choice of representative and is an important victory for claimants' right to organise.

The rep from the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty-affiliated group was accompanying a jobseeker to an appointment to review his Job Seekers Agreement on 3rd February.  A manager unexpectedly joined the interview, started aggressively questioning the rep, and then ordered him to  leave.  The rep refused, pointing out that all claimants have the right to be accompanied.

The manager then ordered the security guards to call the police to evict the rep.  Unfortunately for the bullying manager the police took half an hour to arrive and the interview continued to its conclusion with the rep continuing to participate.  When the police arrived they ordered the rep to leave and took his name, but did not charge him.

The Jobcentre manager denied claimants' rights in this way despite the fact that Edinburgh Claimants reps have been accompanying jobseekers and other claimants to such interviews for years, and do so virtually every week.

Solidarity

Edinburgh Claimants immediately made an official complaint to the DWP and later that week a group from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty gathered for solidarity activity at the High Riggs Job Centre, displaying placards and distributing hundreds of leaflets to claimants detailing the right to be accompanied to all interviews.

Beat the Work Capability Assessment!

As people all round Britain protested at ATOS assessment centres on 19th February, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty has published a new revised and expanded version of our article on how to deal with the Work Capability Assessment.  If you or a friend is facing an assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, then this is essential reading.

Don't face ATOS alone!  Get support in filling in the forms, prepare, and if you have to go to a test be accompanied.

READ MORE HERE

 

 

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