Anti workfare demonstrators blockade Salvation Army shop in Edinburgh

Demonstrators opposing workfare and sanctions blockaded a large Salvation Army charity shop in central Edinburgh on 7th December.  The approximately 40 protestors included some unemployed people who had themselves been press-ganged to work for nothing in Salvation Army charity shops.

 IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN was the clear message on a giant banner which demonstrators held right across the front entrance of the Earl Grey Street shop.  Threats of arrest for obstruction were defied and the blockade continued for two hours.  The police officer in charge could be seen frantically calling on his radio for reinforcements, but no more polis arrived – doubtless due to cutbacks…..  Meanwhile the Rhythms of Resistance samba band raised spirits, improvising some new anti workfare beats…..



The Salvation Army is almost certainly the main user of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme in Edinburgh and Britain-wide is one of the most prominent users of forced labour amongst the charity sector.  Large numbers of unemployed people are being forced onto Mandatory Work Activity in Edinburgh by the Jobcentres, often in clear contradiction to the DWP’s own guidance.  Demo organisers 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, do get in touch to seek solidarity,” say ECAP.


Saturday 7 December - act against workfare and benefit sanctions


As part of the Britain-wide week of action from 2 - 8 December, co-ordinated through Boycott Workfare, we will be leafleting Job Centres during the week, and on Saturday 7 December organising a demonstration.  If you believe we need to take action to stop the brutal attacks on claimants, which are an attack on the whole working class, please join us.



More info on the Britain-wide week of action

If you would like to help leaflet local job centres during the week, please e mail us

Dont be forced into zero hours work!

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the DWP have stated  “Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero hours contract vacancies and they will not face sanctions for turning down the offer of a zero hours contract.”

Full DWP responsed here:

Resist Mandatory Work Activity!

Unemployed claimants are being forced onto the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.  This means you have to work for nothing for four weeks just to get your benefits.  If you don't turn up for the slave labour you are likely to have your Job Seekers Allowance stopped.  We have heard that this nasty workfare scheme is currently being forced on many claimants in Edinburgh.

But there is something you can do to resist!  DWP Guidance states that Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) is not designed for the “vast majority” but only for “a few” unemployed claimants - see Point 2 of the Guidance.  Please note the official DWP Guidance has just changed - for the worse naturally - and we have just updated this article with the latest info and links.

The Guidance details who should be sent on MWA, who should not be sent and about the procedures that are supposed to be followed.  So you can check out the guidance and if you do not meet the criteria or they have not followed the right procedures – object!   ECAP is pledged to support all resisting being forced onto workfare, so contact us.

They must give a reason and explain to you why you are being referred to MWA.  Point 17 of the DWP guidance on MWA states:

"A JSA claimant potentially suitable for MWA is one identified through the 
work targeted interview process as lacking, or failing to demonstrate, the 
focus and discipline necessary to effectively:  
  seek out and pursue job opportunities 
  secure and retain employment..”

Demonstrators besiege Leith Job Centre – police manhandle protestors out of building

 Demonstrators besieged Leith Job Centre in Edinburgh on 11th July to oppose the 30% sanctions target set by a  new manager there.  Police manhandled protestors who entered the building and announced that the Public  Order Act was in force.  Part of the Boycott Workfare Week of Action Against Workfare, the demo denounced all work-for-your-benefits schemes, and proclaimed opposition to the whole austerity programme.

Organised by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and supported by Greater Leith Against the Cuts, the demo saw around 30 – 40 people participating including several disability rights activists and several people who signed on at Leith Job Centre.  One demonstrator told how she herself had been sanctioned and was surviving on meagre hardship payments.  Others recounted how the new Hit Squad at Leith Job Centre were trying to bully and threaten them into signing up to the Universal Jobmatch government job search account and give permission for their jobsearch to be electronically monitored.

It is clear the local manager's declaration that 30% of claimants were not meeting the conditions for receiving Job Seekers Allowance - and therefore should be sanctioned – is being translated into oppressive bullying treatment on a daily basis.  

Leith Job Centre entrance guarded by policeLeith Job Centre entrance guarded by policeThe police were guarding the Job Centre from hours before the demo and with reinforcements arriving police numbers grew to double figures.  Some demonstrators entered the Job Centre but were grabbed by police in the foyer and frogmarched out.  The policeman in charged declared the Public Order Act was in force and under its provisions ordered people to leave the approach ramp to the Job Centre.  Despite this demonstrators crowded round the door, now guarded by a row of police.  A cacophony of whistles, spoons beating on pots and chants of “We will not be sanctioned!” and “We won't be your 30%” let the management know claimants would not be passive victims.

DWP sanctions cranked up


Gather 10am onwards at Leith Job Centre, 199 Commercial Street, EH6 6QP
Part of the Boycott Workfare Week of Action against Workfare
The Department For Workfare and Punishment (DWP) have set up a 'Hit Squad'  in Leith Jobcentre to target Work Programme returners and harass them!
A new manager at Leith Jobcentre has told staff that 30% of claimants are not meeting the conditions for receiving benefits - the clear implication is that these claimants should be sanctioned. In reality this is a return to the supposedly outlawed practice of setting sanctions targets, and is totally unfair and unjust.

Anti bedroom tax groups demand justice for Margaret

Edinburgh Council tenant Margaret has been denied an exemption for bedroom tax by City of Edinburgh Council despite being clearly entitled - she has overnight carers stay every night.  She wrote to the CEC as early as February applying for an exemption.  Instead of granting the exemption the Council have been phoning her up threatening she could be evicted if she didn't pay her rent.  This is clearly against the Council policy of no evictions for bedroom tax arrears.  The stress of this situation has now led to Margaret giving up her tenancy, as she was becoming very ill.

Muirhouse and Pilton anti bedroom tax groups called for people to attend Councillor Cammy Day's surgery at Muirhouse Library on 17 June to support Margaret and other tenants with bedroom tax problems.   Around 20 people turned up at short notice, an excellent show of solidarity.  This followed ten people accompanying Margaret to the Councillor's surgery on 3 June.  People are appalled at her unjust treatment by the Council over the Bedroom Tax. 



The Jobcentre adviser has no power to just tell you that you have to create a Universal Jobmatch account. Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have supported several unemployed claimants who have successfully declined to create a Universal Jobmatch account, without suffering any sanctions.

You can only be forced to create a Universal Jobmatch account if Jobcentre Plus issue you with a written Jobseeker’s Direction –without such a written instruction they cannot force you onto Universal Jobmatch and they cannot sanction you.

Before a jobcentre adviser can issue a Jobseekers' Direction forcing you to create a Universal Jobmatch account, they have to consider if it would be appropriate in your circumstances. For example if English is your second language or if you have difficulty with literacy then it may not be reasonable to issue such a Jobseeker’s Direction. The adviser must consider the following questions:

1. Do you have a health related condition?

2. Is English a second language?

3. Do you have a problem with literacy and/or numeracy?

4. You do not have a computer or internet access device (IAD) OR cannot afford to access the internet?

5. You live in area with poor internet service?

6. You do not have reasonable access to a computer?

7. Does your jobcentre have a computer you can use?

8. You have a computer or internet access device (IAD) but wish to exercise your right not to allow cookies?


      A Jobseekers' Direction only applies to a jobcentre computer, you cannot be forced to create the Universal Jobmatch account on YOUR own computer.  SEE 8 ABOVE

May Day For Workfare Exploiters

May Day in Edinburgh saw anti workfare demonstrators touring companies and charities using unpaid forced labour.  Starting with an excursion into the giant Homebase at St Leonards the protestors from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty went on to visit no fewer than 7 exploiting employers.

 At Homebase demonstrators roamed the store putting up stickers – THIS
.   Special leaflets were given to
customers and workers detailing the large-scale use of workfare at the
Haringey Homebase where 21 workfare conscripts are working for nothing.

The Homebase manager invited us into her office to discuss the issue.  She
claimed that the stores in Edinburgh did not use workfare but one of the
several workers we talked to, informed us that they did on occasion have
unemployed people working there, sent by “agencies”, probably providers
like A4e.  We eventually moved on with the manager promising to convey our
concerns to head office.

Over a period of nearly three hours we picketed, stickered and leafleted
Greggs, British Heart Foundation, Barnardos, Poundland, Tescos and Argos
We had phoned British Heart Foundation HQ management earlier in the week
and so were well aware that they were unrepentantly continuing their
involvement in the Work Programme, falsely claiming that they were doing
so without using compulsory forced labour.  

Appeal against the bedroom tax!





Everyone hit by the Bedroom Tax should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment – if awarded this tops up your Housing Benefit.  It is normally reviewed regularly.  The application form can be downloaded from the url below in the Council site or ask for one at the local council office.

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