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.

We recommend reading this response by johnnyvoid's blog to Third Force News to understand the facts.

The lack of decency shown by even small media outlets like TFN is disgusting.  ECAP expresses full solidarity with Boycott Workfare and we will step up the struggle against the exploiters of forced labour and their apologists.  Workfare bullies and intimidates unemployed and disabled claimants to work for benefits under threat of destitution.  ECAP's message to organisations who participate in workfare is this - if you exploit us, we will shut you down.

We also believe that third sector in Scotland should be ashamed of being represented by such a poor example of journalism aiming at limiting the right to protests and freedom of expression.  The article consciously refuses to recognize that the meaning of a picket line and a blockade is not an act of intimidation but a show of solidarity with and by the unemployed, disabled, and precarious workers who are being exploited by the state and by employers. 

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EDINBURGH COALITION AGAINST POVERTY is based at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE), an open campaign space & infoshop providing resources and solidarity. Resources available include free computer/internet access, cheap copying, free leaflets, books, pamphlets and mags for sale, and a library. Every Tuesday from 12 to 3pm support and solidarity is available for benefits, debt hassles, housing and other problems. Please contact us at Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty c/o ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA, 0131 557 6242 or ecap@lists.riseup.net. We invite you to join our solidarity phone tree and get involved. ACE is also open at other times for particular events (but the support and solidarity sessions are only on Tuesday).