Unemployed and Job Centre workers came together on 30th June in Edinburgh as part of the Britain-wide strike against pension cutbacks. Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty joined the picket line at High Riggs Job Centre by Tollcross with placards reading UNEMPLOYED SUPPORT JOB CENTRE WORKERS. The workers were very pleased with the support, and discussions ensued about building longer term links.
ECAP members went on to leaflet claimants going in to sign on, explaining “ We are claimants involved in Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and we are taking action today too, because we think that to beat the attacks the government are making on all of us, we all need to start joining up our struggles. Today we are joining the Jobcentre workers picket at High Riggs. The employed and unemployed have a common enemy – the government and the rich. “
We aimed to both give solidarity to the struggle against cuts in workers’ pensions, and to generalise the resistance. So next stop was Slave Labour Central – A4e’s offices on nearby Earl Grey Street, where unemployed people are sent by the Multinational Poverty Pimp to work for their benefits at charity shops and supermarkets. ECAP members leafleting the claimants and workers there were joined by students and an NHS worker.
Many unemployed people enthusiastically received the leaflets, which included info on how to scupper the Work Programme by refusing to sign the Information Disclosure form whereby providers gain permission to share personal data : “You’ve made my day by the way!“ exclaimed one claimant, “I don’t want to be here, I’d rather be out looking for a job!”
Our leaflets urged unemployed people to get involved: “If you are fed up with the unemployed getting treated with total disrespect, join us. We have already won several victories, like winning back benefits that unemployed people lost when they were sanctioned after A4e reported them to the DWP…. The more of us that stick together, the stronger we will be.”
A4e continue to refuse to recognise the right of claimants to be accompanied by their own representative when attending interviews at their premises – we are demanding they recognise this human right.
POLICE AND THIEVES
Some A4e workers also accepted leaflets, though unfortunately none stopped to discuss the fact that their own work situation is doubtless precarious and far from well-paid. As usual, A4e management called out the police, who however took no action. In view of their constant call outs to the forces of the state to repress dangerous leafleters and extremist welfare rights accompanier’s we wonder…. could A4e be charged with wasting police time?
Hundreds of leaflets were also distributed to passers-by, highlighting the fact that resistance to attacks on workers is part of the same struggle as that against compulsory work-for-benefits. After all workfare is an attack on all workers’ wages and conditions. And privatisation is attacking working class people on all fronts, from poverty pimps like A4e and ATOS to the assault on care standards in the NHS. The NHS worker who joined the A4e picket explained the corrosive invasion of private companies into the NHS and how cuts were literally endangering patients lives.
A COMMON ENEMY
While leafleting continued at A4e and High Riggs, some ECAP supporters attended the PCS strike rally, distributing leaflets that stressed that “Employed or unemployed, we have a common enemy” and encouraged DWP workers to get in touch, anonymously if need be, to spill the beans on the pressures their bosses are putting them under and the strategies that are being enforced to drive claimants off benefits and into non-existent jobs. The leaflet also emphasised that the cutbacks are happening across the world due to capitalism’s global crisis – and that we in Britain could learn from the positive resistance in Greece and other countries where people were rejecting union controls and demarcations and organising mass open assemblies in the streets.