DIRECT ACTION WINS VICTORY AT JOBCENTRE - ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME
Claimants responded to a solidarity call-out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and besieged High Riggs Jobcentre in Edinburgh on the morning of 14th September. This direct action and solidarity won a tremendous victory as the DWP gave in and agreed that jobseeker Adam could be accompanied to his appointment by ECAP activist Mike, without the requirement to show any ID.
This was a complete U turn from the repressive approach taken by High Riggs management on 10th September. Then they arrogantly demanded that Adam's ECAP accompanier produce photographic ID, and when this unreasonable demand was refused, called the police to try and evict him. The entire ground floor of the Jobcentre was shut down for 3 hours on the 10th as more ECAP members entered to show solidarity. The police even threatened jobseeker Adam, as well as ECAP activists, with arrest for "Aggravated Trespass".
JOBCENTRE BOSSES UNDER SIEGE
Initially the 14th saw Jobcentreplus managers try to maintain this hard line. Manager Aileen McBrierty, flanked by G4S security, stood clipboard in hand at the doorway. Vetting all entering the Jobcentre, she point-blank refused to permit Adam to proceed to his appointment with ECAP accompanier Mike - Mike however walked into the Jobcentre foyer anyway, and took McBrierty to task over her denial of claimants' human rights. As he quoted the DWP's own statement that claimants had the right to be accompanied, the crowd moved forward towards the entrance and more demonstrators voiced their anger, demanding to know on whose authority McBrierty was acting.
The stand-off continued for some time, with the demonstrators' denunciations and determination to win justice for Adam and the rights of all claimants growing in strength. G4S security appeared helpless as the situation became increasingly uncomfortable for the DWP bosses. Eventually the Jobcentreplus Area manager declared the appointment could go ahead. The demand to show ID was completely dropped. Possibly to try to save face, management said the appointment would take place in a screened booth: if this absurd arrangement continues, it may need to be challenged in future.
Now inside, Adam and Mike still had one more battle to fight. They insisted that Adam should not meet with adviser Gerry, who on the 10th had completely ignored Adam's request that his appointment be postponed so he could visit the hospital where his brother was at that moment undergoing an emergency operation. After first insisting that Adam must meet with Gerry, Jobcentreplus management backed down and a manager conducted the interview. This only lasted a few minutes with no recurrence of past referrals to workfare or any other harrassment.
IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN
ECAP activist Esther McDonald said: "We hope that this action will mark a growing counter-power through which claimants can make it increasingly difficult for the DWP to impose sanctions, workfare and other attacks. Jobcentre management need to know that if they attack claimants, then we will take direct action to make jobcentres unworkable.
Solidarity and direct action from below is the way to fight against benefit cuts, against all austerity, and against the profit-driven capitalist society which produces these injustices. Our message to all bosses is this - If you exploit us, we will shut you down."
Now ECAP and other activist groups are building for Britain-wide Days of Action on 12th / 13th October in solidarity with Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox, on trial for accompanying a jobseeker at Arbroath Jobcentre. Activists will leaflet Jobcentres, and descend on Forfar Sheriff Court from 9am on the 13th.
FOOTAGE OF THE SOLIDARITY ACTION AT HIGH RIGGS http://livestream.com/IndependenceLive/AdvocacyIsNotACrime