Anti Workfare protestors shut down Salvation Army store in Edinburgh
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.
In a possibly miraculous manifestation, a large black triangle appeared on the outside wall of the Salvation Army shop. Salvation Army efforts to scrub it away proved totally ineffectual, reinforcing the belief that this was a divine sign condemning the Starvation Army's exploitation of disabled people forced to labour for nothing in their shops under the Work Programme. The black triangle was the symbol that disabled people were forced to wear in the Nazi concentration camps. We have yet to receive confirmation of the rumours that the Salvation Army Employment Plus department are to adopt the slogan "Work makes free".
The protest was aimed at galvanising opposition to the government's plan for a new workfare scheme, Community Work Placements, which extends the period of compulsory work-for-benefits to six months. A Britain-wide week of action, co-ordinated through Boycott Workfare has seen actions in many towns and cities. On 31st March in London protestors invaded the YMCA and sang “Forced to work at the Y-M-C-A”.
"The Community Work Placements scheme is already in trouble, " say ECAP. "Many charities have already said they will not participate - even the Salvation Army won't touch it - and its start date has been postponed. The main contract for the scheme in Scotland does not yet seem to have been awarded - we are researching which organisation is to be involved as we plan to take direct action against them and make this workfare scheme unworkable."
TAKE ACTION WITH THE EDINBURGH COALITION AGAINST POVERTY (ECAP)
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) are fighting several cases where unemployed people are resisting being sent on MWA. If you are in this position, being forced onto any workfare scheme, get in touch to seek solidarity. We invite you to join our solidarity phone tree, and get involved.
Let the Salvation Army know (politely!) what you think of their involvement in workfare.
Edinburgh City Salvation Army email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twelve Reasons to Reject the Salvation Army: http://libcom.org/library/starvation-army-twelve-reasons-reject-salvation-army