Activists from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty braved high-winds and heavy rain on Monday 9th November to converge on East Lothian Council offices at Brunton Hall Musselburgh in solidarity with sacked Council whistleblower Theresa Sives who tried to highlight the misdirection of Council funds. Sherriffs Officers have been persecuting Theresa in pursuit of £10,000 "court costs" which the Council bullies have demanded after a biased employment tribunal.

Carrying placards calling for "Justice for the East Lothian Council Whistleblower" the activists, alongside Theresa herself, her daughter and grandchildren picketed Brunton Hall entrance for an hour before occupying the main reception area for around another hour. They defied a threat that the police would be called, insisting on their right to support Theresa against the Council's bullying tactics.


After prolonged pressure the Council agreed to meet Theresa and an ECAP spokesperson. A letter for Council chief Angela Leitch demanding that the alleged debt be dropped was handed to manager Andrew Gordon, the senior Council official present, as was a substantial petition which had grown quickly as sympathetic passers-by were told about Theresa's situation.

Engaging with the public both inside and outside the hall the activists received a warm response including friendly honks of approval from taxi drivers, one of whom took some leaflets to distribute. ECAP were also told of several other incidents in which Council workers have been harrassed and bullied after trying to highlight malpractices in East Lothian.


A spokeperson for ECAP explained that the punitive demand for £10,000 from someone on a low income was causing untold stress and putting a family's home under threat. He made it clear that the issue was not going to go away until the charge was dropped.

Sacked East Lothian Council Whistleblower fights back.

Sacked East Lothian Council Whistleblower fights back.

Mrs Sives a former manager with East Lothian Council says that: “Protected Disclosures do not work and do not protect whistleblowers from malicious employers.  Whistleblowers are routinely victimised by their employer, ignored by regulators and let down by a court system that at best, concentrates on their employment experience, rather than on the problems that they reveal”. 

Mrs Sives says that after she blew the whistle on repeated financial mismanagement within East Lothian Council, she was continually undermined, isolated and ignored.


Tony Cox Trial - Solidarity with welfare activist arrested for accompanying a claimant

On 13th October demonstrators from around Scotland gathered at Forfar sheriff court in solidarity with welfare activist Tony Cox, on trial for representing a vulnerable claimant at Arbroath jobcentre.

Over 60 activists from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Action Against Austerity, Dundee Against Austerity, AFed, IWW, GAC and Tony’s own Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network came from Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, Stirling and Aberdeen to support Tony. On 12th October, demonstrations in solidarity with Tony took place outside jobcentres throughout the UK.  In Edinburgh ECAP were at High Riggs, Leith and Musselburgh jobcentres.
SUWN say about the trial and demo at Forfar ‘So we’re back from a day’s entertainment at Forfar Sheriff Court where we watched Tony’s lawyer methodically demolish the DWP’s witnesses so that the Procurator Fiscal was forced to drop their charge of threatening behaviour all together. The case isn’t finished – we had to spend most of the day waiting around – but when we come back on the 18th November, it will only be for the other two charges’.


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".


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.

Edinburgh Jobcentre shut down as claimants insist “Advocacy is not a crime”


The entire ground floor of Edinburgh's High Riggs Jobcentre was closed down for almost three hours on 10th September as Jobcentre managers called in police and refused to permit a jobseeker to exercise his right to be accompanied to an appointment. Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty defied threats of arrest and stayed in the jobcentre to support the claimant and the ECAP advocate.

Now ECAP are calling a solidarity demo for this Monday 14th at 9am at High Riggs Jobcentre, when the jobseeker, Adam, will attend his rearranged appointment, once more accompanied by an ECAP advocate.  ECAP say: “We will not be intimidated by the DWP bullies, G4S security or the police.  We will assert claimants’ right to be accompanied.  The DWP themselves state: "Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf..””


Jobseeker Adam had been called to the Jobcentre for an appointment to review his Jobseekers Agreement.  Having suffered months of harrassment from the Jobcentre, who have been trying to force him onto workfare schemes, Adam asked ECAP rep Mike to come with him.  Having that very morning received the distressing news that his brother was having to undergo a serious emergency operation, Adam asked Gerry, the Jobcentre adviser, if his review could be postponed and if he could just quickly sign on and go to the hospital to be with his brother.  

ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME! Solidarity with Tony Cox, Britain Wide Days of Action, 12 & 13 October

In solidarity with arrested Dundonian welfare advocate Tony Cox from Scottish Unemployed Workers Network(SUWN),  the IWW, Edinburgh Anarchist Federation and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) will join a host of groups (including SUWN themselves) who will take part in Britain wide days of action on 12th and 13th of October in solidarity with Tony.


Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks.  Tony proposed that D's UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced.  The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.


Anti workfare demonstrators have won a victory in Edinburgh as the Hospices of Hope charity shop in Stockbridge has withdrawn from workfare. Protestors converged on the shop in Deanhaugh Street on the morning of 29th June, following reports of the charity's involvement in the Community Work Placements scheme.

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty protestors explained to the shop manager how claimants were forced to work for nothing under threat of sanctions, and urged Hospices of Hope to join the near 600 charities who have signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement to boycott workfare.

After a short discussion the manager agreed to withdraw from the schemes, and end all placements immediately. She promised to tell workfare provider Learndirect that the shop would take no more placements.

Now ECAP have approached the other Hospices of Hope shops in Edinburgh, at Tollcross and Gorgie, and urged their managers to take the same principled stand. We are also contacting Hospices of Hope head office to ask the charity as a whole to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.

Buoyed by this success on 29th June, demonstrators next moved a few doors down Deanhaugh Street and visited notorious workfare users DEBRA. The manager here explained that the decision to use workfare came from higher up the charity. A phone call to the DEBRA area manager confirmed their continued use of the exploiting schemes, and as ECAP protestors took up position at the door of the DEBRA charity shop, the manager closed the shop for the duration of the one and a half hour protest.

KEEP VOLUNTEERING VOLUNTARY http://www.keepvolunteeringvoluntary.net/
DEBRA write: " For any concerns or compliments regarding our charity shops please contact tricia.mckale@debra.org.uk"


Anti workfare demonstrators blockaded B and M Bargains in Musselburgh by Edinburgh on 27 June. Demonstrators denounced that the Jobcentre threatens claimants with sanctions to force people to work for their benefits for employers like B and M. Many shoppers turned away when it was explained how the multi-million pound business is exploiting claimants to make even more profits.

Police aggressively tried to clear the entranceway to the shop, pushing demonstrators, but protestors refused to be intimidated, holding the giant banner IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN" across the shop front. Impromptu speeches via the megaphone by several demonstrators called on people to stand together against exploitation, resist workfare and battle for a fair equal world where resources are shared. "Workfare attacks all workers, undermining everyone's wages and conditions".


B and M stores recently won a "prestigious" trade industry award for their use of workfare. The reality is that they use workfare to further exploit their workforce. Whistleblowers have revealed to Boycott Workfare:
“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”
“Older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”

Claimants directly affected by workfare were among those participating - demo organisers Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty support claimants battling against being sent on these exploiting schemes. "We accompany claimants to the jobcentre, to meetings with jobcentre managers, to workfare providers like Learndirect, and if needbe to workfare placements, to back up claimants who are arguing against being sent to do forced unpaid labour. If enough people take action, we can make workfare UNworkable," say ECAP.


Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty calls on all opposed to exploitation to join us in demonstrating against the use of workfare schemes by B & M Bargains this coming Saturday 27 June - meet 2pm onwards at B & M Bargains, 91 - 93 High St, Musselburgh EH21 7DA

B&M Bargains have just won a ‘prestigious’ workfare industry award for their use of forced unpaid labour. We need to let them know this has not gone unnoticed. They need to understand that it is unacceptable to have this sort of exploitation take place in our communities.

B&M bargains are a private, profit making company (they made over £100 million last year) and yet it won’t pay its workers for their labour. People on workfare are given sanctions (loose their benefits) if they don’t work for free, and even when they do work they are sanctioned for ‘misdemeanours’ such as being late.

Apart from exploiting claimants, workfare also undermines the hours and conditions of paid employees at B&M. As with all workfare placements in the private sector, workfare provides free labour that replaces paid jobs.

Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements:

People can only be sent on workfare placements if there is somewhere to send them. Let’s make it impossible to do this!

Not on this street, not in this city!

More info on the Britain-wide Day of Action against B&M, co-ordinated via Boycott Workfare at http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4397
Demo supported by Edinburgh Anarchist Federation https://edinburghanarchists.noflag.org.uk/

Check out ECAP's recently updated info on practical steps you can take to resist, if you are being sent on workfare

Forfar court demo - Solidarity with activist arrested for representing claimant

Solidarity at Forfar CourtSolidarity at Forfar Court

Demonstrators from around Scotland gathered at Forfar sheriff court today 9th June to support activist Tony Cox, arrested for representing a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.

An even bigger protest is anticipated for 23rd June when Tony will stand trial on charges of  “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. 

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker.  "We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented," say SUWN.

UPDATE 22.6.15

The latest news is that when the case calls at Forfar sheriff court on 23rd June, it is likely to be adjourned to a future date.  Thus the demo at the court on 23rd is cancelled, but Scottish Unemployed Workers Network are still calling for protests and leafleting at Jobcentres to show solidarity with Tony.  See up-to-date news on SUWN Facebook

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