Tag Archive: government


Bedroom-TaxBeat The Bedroom Tax – Loophole gives hope!


Advice From Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism
Written By Robert Clough

The revelation that possibly 15% of all tenants forced to pay the bedroom tax are in fact exempt because of a legal error must give hope to those fighting this vicious attack on the working class.

Described in the media as a ‘loophole’, it is in fact down to the criminal incompetence of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) who ignored clauses in housing benefit regulations set out in 2006. This error means that any tenant who has been on housing benefit since before 1 January 1996 and who has been occupying the same house over that period is exempt from paying the bedroom tax.

In an urgent bulletin issued on 8 January 2014 acknowledging the ‘mistake’, the DWP stated that only a ‘small number’ of tenants would be affected. DWP Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and DWP ministers have said between 3,000 and 5,000 tenants would have their bedroom tax payments refunded. These wretches had no basis for their estimates, and made them up to minimise the scale of the government’s incompetence. The true figure will be at least 40,000, and possibly many more. One Wirral housing association, Magenta Living, believes from its own records that 320 tenants out of 2,076 paying the tax are exempt. This figure does not include those who are in succession tenancies, or who have had to move through force majeure in the period since 1996 (because of fire or flooding, for instance), or who have downsized because they could not afford to pay the tax. Even so, at least 15.4% of its tenants have been unlawfully forced to pay the bedroom tax. This is not out of line with initial figures obtained for other housing authorities in the north, and would translate into a national figure of over 80,000 (15.4% of the 522,000 currently paying the tax).

What does this mean for the tenants involved and their families? They have had to make choices between heating and eating. Life, difficult enough beforehand, has been made intolerable by the worry of eviction for non-payment. It drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide in May 2013 – we now know she was exempt. Thousands have been forced to abandon what had been their family home for decades. Their lives, and those of their families, have been wrecked – and we are talking here about up to 200,000 people living in the 80,000 affected households. To compound the cruelty, councils such as Wirral and St Helens have unlawfully demanded repayment of Discretionary Housing Payments made to those now recognised as exempt.

This cruelty will continue into a second year because there is no organised resistance despite judgments that benefit tribunals have made in favour of tenants. First Tier Tribunals have ruled that bedroom size is a factor that has to be taken into account in determining bedroom tax liability. They have also ruled that in making bedroom tax decisions, housing authorities have to consider room purpose and current usage; the rights of children to a family life where parents have separated; the specific needs of disabled people, and take into account the human rights of tenants. A real movement would be making hay with this.

Councils have argued that they cannot act on First Tier Tribunal decisions since they do not set legal precedents. However, Upper Tribunals do, and a Bolton Upper Tribunal has set a very important precedent, saying that a room can only be a bedroom if it has a bed in it and is used for sleeping in. In other words, if a room is not furnished with a bed and is not used for sleeping in, then it is not a bedroom (see speye.wordpress.com for greater detail). The importance of this lies in the way councils made their original bedroom tax decisions. Labour and Tory alike, they all uncritically accepted data submitted by social landlords which was no more than the number of bedrooms as recorded on tenancy agreements, and refused to inspect each home to determine how those rooms were being used. This blanket approach was unlawful, and with councils having to undertake annual reviews of housing benefit decisions in February and March, campaigns must up the ante by demanding that council officers inspect every social housing property before making housing benefit decisions for 2014/15.

The DWP has said that it will act to remove the 1996 exemption. While there is no limit to the vindictiveness of the ConDem coalition, this may not be straightforward. Coming in the wake of the continuing Universal Credit fiasco it will be a further exposé of governmental incompetence. The media will find it hard to stigmatise those affected as Benefit Street ‘scroungers’: the overwhelming majority of them are either disabled people or carers who have worked in the past but are unable to do so now. In the meantime up to 80,000 tenants can take out complaints of maladministration against the DWP with the Parliamentary Ombudsman and against their local council with the Local Government Ombudsman. They will also be able to sue both for the financial hardship and distress they have suffered. All of this shows that the bedroom tax can be beaten: it merely requires determined organisation.gypt, Syria, London, Liverpool, Birmingham: Join The Resistance!

 

Monsanto Wins  Nobel Prize of agriculture

In an obscene development, a Monsanto executive is winning this year’s “Nobel Prize of agriculture” – the prestigious World Food Prize – for creating GMOs. Receiving it legitimizes the sort of rampant genetic modification Monsanto pioneered, and helps validate a ruthless business model that impoverishes farmers and monopolizes our food. [1]

If that wasn’t baffling enough, the founder of Syngenta, the same biotech giant joining Bayer in suing Europe to keep selling bee-killing pesticides, will also win the prize, and with it, a share of the $250,000 prize money. This prize legitimizes their frankenfoods and bee killers.

Winning this prize will encourage the wider use of genetically engineered crops and be a huge obstacle to those fighting to investigate the long-term effects of its frankenseeds, which is exactly what Monsanto wants. In 2008, Monsanto made a $5 million pledge to the World Food Prize Foundation, part of its plan to buy the credibility it can’t legitimately earn. By handing its benefactor this award, the Foundation risks undermining the credibility of the most respected prize in agriculture.

Monsanto has been by far the most prominent and controversial corporation promoting the introduction of biotechnology in agriculture. The company has a long and messy history of manufacturing hazardous chemicals. Their products have included chemical warfare agents (Agent Orange), industrial materials (PCBs), food additives (NutraSweet), agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The Crimes of Monsanto
As the market leaders in GM crops it is Monsanto who have been largely responsible for contaminating the global food chain with GM crops. The long term health effects of eating GM crops are as yet unknown. [2]

BST,  marketed by Monsanto as Posilac, is a genetically engineered hormone designed to make cows produce more milk. Studies have shown that BST has serious implications for the health and welfare of dairy cattle and may cause breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans. It is banned in Europe but Monsanto is trying to overturn the ban in the courts.

One of the most worrying and pernicious of Monsanto’s crimes has been to obtain patents for ‘terminator’ technology. Terminator technology involves the genetically engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, thus forcing farmers to buy new seed every year, rather than saving their own seed from year to year. Monsanto has said it will not use this technology, but still holds the patents and may use it in future. [3]

Several scientific studies have suggested that the Bt technology used by Monsanto in their insect resistant crops may kill ‘non-pest’ insects such as the Monarch butterfly, yet Monsanto attempted to rush their Bt insect resistant cotton through the Indian government’s regulatory process anyway. The dicission on allowing commercial growing of Bt cotton has been postponed in the face of massive opposition from Indian farmers and NGOs all over the world.

Monsanto have also been behind a long list of litigations against activists, designed to intimidate anyone who may question Monsanto’s story. In 1997 two TV journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, who were making a documentary on the dangers of  Monsanto’s BST were fired by their employers Fox, when they refused to change the content of the documentary. In 1998 Monsanto took out a wide ranging SLAPP (Stategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against activists from Genetix Snowball who were campaigning agains Monsanto’s GM food trials in the UK.

Protest
In protest, 81 Councilors of the World Future Council have penned a statement blasting the World Food Prize Foundation for betraying its purpose. In the words of the esteemed authors: “GMO seeds reinforce a model of farming that undermines the sustainability of cash-poor farmers, who make up most of the world’s hungry. The most dramatic impact of such dependency is in India, where 270,000 farmers, many trapped in debt for buying seeds and chemicals, committed suicide between 1995 and 2012.” Despite the criticism, Monsanto and Syngenta executives are set to receive their prize on World Food Day, October 16, a slap in the face to everyone harmed by their products. [4]

[1] http://action.sumofus.org/a/world-food-prize-monsanto-syngenta/5/4/?akid=2390.1701622.QwfZ4y&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=3

[2] http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=210

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

For further reading: Focus On GMOs – WANTED: Monsanto for crimes against the planet

hendrik-a-verfaillie-and-monsWANTED: Monsanto for crimes against the planet

Greenpeace, August 24, 2002
Long time corporate scoundrels Monsanto are WANTED for their crimes against the planet. It started innocently enough with the production of Agent Orange for military use in Vietnam. Then came PCBs and Dioxin. Now they are after our food. Their goal: global food supply domination.

The environmental criminal:
Monsanto is wanted for questioning in relation to the genetic pollution of the planet Earth, force feeding global citizens genetically engineered foods and the global take over of the planet’s food sources.

It is armed with the arrogant belief that genetic engineering is safe, both for the environment and human health. Monsanto is the same company that brought us such safe, healthy products as Agent Orange and PCBs.

The accomplice:
The US and Canadian governments not only ignored the inherent risks of genetic engineering, they have aided Monsanto setting up an inadequate regulatory system that relies on risk assessment, industry science and voluntary compliance.

The environmental crime:
As if polluting the planet with noxious PCBs, dioxins and harmful pesticides wasn’t enough, now this leader in the genetic engineering industry is threatening to alter the genes of every food crop on Earth. Monsanto’s Robert Fraley testified: “What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.”

Through a spending spree of billions of US dollars acquiring seed companies around the world and the contamination of the global food chain with GE crops, Monsanto’s diabolical plan of global food take over may soon be a reality. But since meeting resistance from people in developed nations, Monsanto has turned its focus to developing nations. They claim that they can help meet the world’s growing food needs and feed the hungry. But they ignore the fact that most hungry people live in countries that have food surpluses rather than deficits.

Innovative, environmentally responsible farming practices are already in the ground, offering food security and sustainable livelihoods without drawing farmers into more dependency, threatening biodiversity or endangering human health. Food security, the ability of a community to feed itself consistently on a diverse and healthy diet, is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight, it depends on people having access to land and money. Monsanto is offering neither.

And why should we believe that this move to sell genetically engineered crops to developing nations to help them with hunger and malnutrition comes from the goodness of their hearts. If their relationship with farmers in developed nations is any indication, farmers in the developing world will be trampled by the coercion and censorship tactics of this agriculture bully.

Monsanto promotes a farming model of snooping and snitching on your neighbours. The company employs a small army of private investigators to check up on farmers and advertises a toll-free informer line. They have tried to censor journalists questioning the safety of Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone and stop the printers of the Ecologist from publishing a special edition attacking Monsanto. Instead Monsanto spends millions on public relations campaigns of misinformation and warm fuzzy feelings.

The victim:
Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from the prairie food belt of Canada. His canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready canola seed. Monsanto’s position is that it doesn’t matter whether Percy knew it or not, his canola field was contaminated with the Roundup Ready gene and he must pay their technology fee. Percy and his wife Louise stood up to Monsanto in a classic battle of good versus evil, David versus Goliath, but in this round it was Monsanto that won out in the Canadian court battle. Percy is appealing.

Monsanto quotes Gandhi “we must be the change we wish to see in the world” in their propaganda. But it was Percy who received the Mahatma Gandhi Award while he was in India in October 2000. The award is given in recognition of working for the betterment and good of humankind in a non-violent way.

The verdict:
Oh so guilty, their arrest is overdue. Monsanto has already polluted every corner of the planet with PCBs and dioxin, they must be held accountable before all crops and genetic resources on the planet are contaminated and our food supply forever under their control.

The US and Canadian governments must hold Monsanto accountable for their crimes against the environment and the global food supply. World governments need to agree on legally binding rules for corporations that hold them responsible for the actions next week at the Earth Summit.

The Reward:
A safe and secure global food supply, a healthy environment and the chance to properly tackle the inadequate distribution of food to the world’s hungry.

VOAG Logo (Brick)5Labour, The TUC and the Levy

The crisis of British capitalism is reflected in the war waging inside the Labour party between Ed Miliband and Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite, the biggest trade union in Britain. According to Channel 4’s Fact-Check, “Unite the union is Labour’s biggest donor by far. It has provided 20 per cent, or £11.9m, of party donations since the election.”

Miliband, in a letter to Labour party members, is propagating the idea of “one nation”, so that Labour can prepare for coalition government with either the Tories or Liberal Democrats. Miliband states “A hundred years ago the Trade Unions helped to found the Labour Party”. From 1900 the working class through the trade unions founded, built and financed the Labour party to advance the cause of the working class by representing it in parliament.

Miliband further comments “The organised trade unions are no longer part of the Labour party, we are changing that relationship between the Labour party and the trade unions”. The actions of Kinnock who drove out the Militant Tendency and Blair who removed Clause 4 from the Labour party constitution were de-signed to kill off the last vestige of socialism in the Labour party. Miliband takes up the right-wing offensive anew and wants to turn the Labour party into an open capitalist party with no connection to the trade unions or the working class, although he wants to continue receiving big donations from unions like Unite.

McCluskey’s compromise is not designed to starve the Labour party of funds but accept abolition of the political levy. The levy is taken from each member’s contributions and goes directly to the Labour party. It is approximately £3 per year on an “in if you do not opt out” basis. As in the same debates about the Osborne Judgement from 1909 to 1913 most Tory and Liberal politicians want an “out if you do not opt in” position which would cost the party millions of lost subscriptions. The Great Unrest forced the 1913 compromise we still have today.

Ending the political levy would abolish the block vote at conferences and TU influence in local associations. It was the response that Jerry Hicks got crucially on Labour party funding in the General Secretary election in April from 80, 000 Unite members that aerated McCluskey to make his stance. The Labour party want money for nothing, vague Warwick Agreement pre-election promises never kept

The rank and file influence in the Labour party is via the TU bureaucracy, who are at one with Labour lead-ers in pandering to Imperialist chauvinism: British jobs for British workers, anti-immigrant bigotry and support for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. We must defeat this reactionary clique by establishing rank and file control. The Labour party membership must be won to this mass struggle. This is how to win the British working class to the revolutionary party.Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page for details of local events against the cuts.

Save Our Fire ServiceSupport The FBU Strike next week

FBU, 23/09/2013
For two years now our Officials have been in consultation with the  Government under its reform of public sector pension bill, the FBU’s aim is to achieve an occupational pension scheme that fits our occupation that is to say that one that the vast majority of firefighters can reasonable expect to work until retirement. However just before Parliament broke up for its summer recess it announced to the FBU that it was going to draw to a head the consultation and gave us a deadline to agree with their proposals or they would impose a worse scheme upon us. The FBU could not agree with the proposals put forward by CLG as primarily they are unworkable, do not fit the occupation and would lead to mass dismissals of firefighters without a pension or a job but also the FBU do not consider that putting ultimatums to our members is a good way of doing business.
There has been many independent reports completed over the two years, some commissioned by the FBU and some by the Government. This evidence has been used in the consultation and not once has it been disputed or discredited as these reports and evidence is without doubt credible and accurate and the  government ministers can not dispute the findings which broadly support the FBU’s case but more importantly prove that the government proposals are unfair, unaffordable, unsustainable and not designed to fit our occupation. The most notable is an independent report done by Dr Williams, commissioned by the  government, paid for by the government, the author was chosen by the government and the terms and reference was detailed by the government, yet the report their report broadly supports the FBU’s case.
The FBU balloted its members to see if they were willing to take Strike action to defend their Pensions, the Ballot return was excellent 78% “Yes” to support industrial action so our members will be called to walk out the doors at 12:00hrs-16:00hrs on the 25th September, this Wednesday.
Many of our Stations/Workplaces will have a picket but some are considering other activities such as leaving the site and walking into their towns to talk to the public, some are considering marching down to their local MP’s offices and discussing the issues with them. So I guess it would be best if comrades from other trade unions or local supporters and activists want to know what might be happening in their local area please contact the local officials who will be happy to advise.The VOAG

Assad did not use chemical weapons

CBS News reports that the U.S. is finalizing plans for war against Syria – and positioning ships to launch cruise missiles against the Syrian government -based on the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people. The last time the U.S. blamed the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack, that claim was debunked.

But is the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people true this time? It’s not surprising that Syria’s close ally Russia is expressing doubt. Agence France-Presse (AFP) notes: Russia, which has previously said it has proof of chemical weapons use by the rebels, expressed deep scepticism about the opposition’s claims. The foreign ministry said the timing of the allegations as UN inspectors began their work “makes us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation.”

But Russia isn’t the only doubter. AFP reports: “At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people who are helping them are without any protective clothing and without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. “In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.” John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use. “Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them show pinpoint pupils this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents,” he said.

Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specialises in chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses in its stockpiles. “We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses are becoming fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,” Winfield told AFP.

Haaretz reports: Western experts on chemical warfare who have examined at least part of the footage are skeptical that weapons-grade chemical substances were used, although they all emphasize that serious conclusions cannot be reached without thorough on-site examination. Dan Kaszeta, a former officer of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps and a leading private consultant, pointed out a number of details absent from the footage so far: “None of the people treating the casualties or photographing them are wearing any sort of chemical-warfare protective gear,” he says, “and despite that, none of them seem to be armed.” This would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons, including the vast majority of nerve gases, since these substances would not evaporate immediately, especially if they were used in sufficient quantities to kill hundreds of people, but rather leave a level of contamination on clothes and bodies which would harm anyone coming in unprotected contact with them in the hours after an attack. In addition, he says that “there are none of the other signs you would expect to see in the aftermath of a chemical attack, such as intermediate levels of casualties, severe visual problems, vomiting and loss of bowel control”.

Steve Johnson, a leading researcher on the effects of hazardous material exposure at England’s Cranfield University who has worked with Britain’s Ministry of Defense on chemical warfare issues, agrees that “from the details we have seen so far, a large number of casualties over a wide area would mean quite a pervasive dispersal. With that level of chemical agent, you would expect to see a lot of contamination on the casualties coming in, and it would affect those treating them who are not properly protected. We are not seeing that here.”

Additional questions also remain unanswered, especially regarding the timing of the attack, being that it occurred on the exact same day that a team of UN inspectors was in Damascus to investigate earlier claims of chemical weapons use. It is also unclear what tactical goal the Syrian army would have been trying to achieve, when over the last few weeks it has managed to push back the rebels who were encroaching on central areas of the capital. But if this was not a chemical weapons attack, what then caused the deaths of so many people without any external signs of trauma?

The Syrian rebels (and perhaps other players in the region) have a clear interest in presenting this as the largest chemical attack by the army loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad to date, even if the cause was otherwise, especially while the UN inspectors are in the country.

It is also in their interest to do so whilst U.S. President Barack Obama remains reluctant to commit any military support to the rebels, when only the crossing of a “red line” could convince him to change his policy. The rebels and the doctors on the scene may indeed believe that chemical weapons were used, since they fear such an attack, but they may not have the necessary knowledge and means to make such a diagnosis. The European Union demanded Wednesday that the UN inspectors be granted access to the new sites of alleged chemical attacks, but since this is not within the team’s mandate, it is unlikely that the Syrian government will do so.Stephen Johnson, an expert in weapons and chemical explosives at Cranfield Forensic Institute, said that the video footage looked suspect:

There are, within some of the videos, examples which seem a little hyper-real, and almost as if they’ve been set up. Which is not to say that they are fake but it does cause some concern. Some of the people with foaming, the foam seems to be too white, too pure, and not consistent with the sort of internal injury you might expect to see, which you’d expect to be bloodier or yellower.

Chemical and biological weapons researcher Jean Pascal Zanders said that the footage appears to show victims of asphyxiation, which is not consistent with the use of mustard gas or the nerve agents VX or sarin: “I’m deliberately not using the term chemical weapons here,” he said, adding that the use of “industrial toxicants” was a more likely explanation.

Michael Rivero asks:
1. Why would Syria’s Assad invite United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to Syria, then launch a chemical weapons attack against women and children on the very day they arrive, just miles from where they are staying?

2. If Assad were going to use chemical weapons, wouldn\rquote t he use them against the hired mercenary army trying to oust him? What does he gain attacking women and children? Nothing! The gain is all on the side of the US Government desperate to get the war agenda going again. As I type these words, US trained and equipped forces are already across the border into Syria, and US naval forces are sailing into position to launch a massive cruise missile attack into Syria that will surely kill more Syrians than were claimed to have died in the chemical attack.

Last time there was a chemical weapon attack in Syria, Bush administration office Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson said that he thought Israel might have given chemical weapons to the Syrian rebels to frame the government. British MP George Galloway just floated the same theory in regards to the new chemical weapon attack.

The evidence so far for the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army is second-hand and comes from a biased source. Of course, we don’t know who carried out the attack, or what weapon was used. But given the well-documented fact that the U.S. has been planning regime change in Syria for 20 years straight – and planned to use false ploys for 50 years – it is worth being skeptical until all of the evidence is in. Indeed, many are asking whether this is Iraq War 2.0. For example, the Independent writes: Pictures showing that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta just east of Damascus are likely to be viewed sceptically because the claims so much resemble those made about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) before the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Like the Iraqi opposition to Saddam, who provided most of the evidence of WMDs, the Syrian opposition has every incentive to show the Syrian government deploying chemical weapons in order to trigger foreign intervention. But the obvious fact that for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons would be much against their own interests does not prove it did not happen. Governments and armies do stupid things. But it is difficult to imagine any compelling reason why they should do so since they have plenty of other means of killing people in Eastern Ghouta, such as heavy artillery or small arms, which they regularly use.The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!

Hands Off SyriaMessage From ‘Hands Off Syria!’

August 26th, 2013
There is a very dangerous situation developing in the Middle east in the immediate future with this latest provocation. It is a completely conscienceless attack on mainly civilians in order to ignite a wider bloodbath. It shows clearly that imperialism, dominated by U.S. imperialism has no agenda in the middle east (or anywhere else) except for destruction of communities and whole nations in order to loot their resources

The evidence in the attachment against this attack being he work of the Syrian government is strong and yet is being completely disregarded by the media in the main. the BBC in particular is at its slimy lying best as an instrument of ruling class propaganda, despite its being completely funded by ordinary people, which should insure its independence.

According to the foreign secretary, Britain and America intend to go ahead with attacks on Syria independently of the U.N. as ‘diplomacy’ has not worked. By diplomacy they presumably mean sanctions(which, according to the reporter Franklin Lamb, are devastating the lives of ordinary civilians) and arming and sending into the country bands of fanatics to cause murder and destruction.

This is a very dangerous escalation of an already explosive situation in the Middle East and one that is not desired by the vast majority of people in Britain and the United States and shows desperation in the face of the unravelling of their plans for the devastation and division of Syria by the use of proxy forces. In the light of the victories of the Syrian government forces in recent weeks and the demoralisation and divisions in the ranks of the armed gangs it makes no sense whatsoever for Syrian government forces to resort to an action that would bring down retaliation on their heads.

This is undoubtedly a provocation. The Syrian government and army are all that stands in the way of the dismembrment and destruction of the country by imperialism.In this situation it is imperative that all Socialists must call for unconditional support for Syria against these attacks by imperialism regardless of the nature of the regime in charge. The demand must be HANDS OFF SYRIA!Hands Off Syria

Workfare – The Facts & The Figures: Another Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford Investigation.

See bottom of the post for a list of events and demonstrations in London. 
It must be the ultimate dream of capitalists. You get free workers. After all, as Tesco is fond of saying ‘every little helps’. But people have finally begun to rebel over the stigmatisation and demonisation of people on the dole. The new Tory Work Program has a core underlying philosophy. The unemployed are to blame for their own predicament.

Was it the unemployed who dealt in derivatives and financial instruments based on fraudulent risk assessments? Did the unemployed gamble with billions of pounds of other peoples’ money? Have unemployed people caused the recession?

Working for your £67.00 a week dole in a climate of no jobs simply means exploitation. And if someone gets a job at the end, then it means someone else doesn’t. All it teaches people to do is to compete more effectively against each other.

The government claims that “Work Experience”, “Community Action Programmes”, and other slave labour schemes are helping people “back to work”. But the truth is, companies availing themselves of these slave labour schemes are replacing paid staff with unemployed forced labour, creating more unemployment. Why would companies pay for staff when they are being provided free at the taxpayers’ expense?

Furthermore, there is a large body of research that indicates that shelf-stacking work only leads to more low paid shelf stacking work. Even highly qualified graduates, once they embark on low paid, low skilled jobs, find it much harder to gain skilled employment.

We need to get the message across that unemployment is endemic to capitalism. That demonisation and finding scapegoats is essential to a system that is desperate to blame any and everyone, except those who are most responsible.

Tesco, Burger King, Poundland and many other businesses are pulling out of the “Workfare” programme, as well as the other slave labour schemes. These schemes are in crisis. Now is the time to pile on the pressure.

March 3rd will see the next day of action against Workfare, and it promises to be the biggest yet. Workfare and the other slave labour schemes affect us all. They increase unemployment and reduce wages for the rest of us. Companies such as Poundland are paying their workers less and less whilst making huge profits because they know there is an ever-increasing pool of unemployed labour threatened with doing the same work for nothing.

Before pulling out of the scheme, Tesco reported that over the past four months some 1,400 people have worked for them without pay. Meanwhile, its profits for the first half of 2011 were £1.9 billion. And Tesco CEO Philip Clarke is on target for £6.9 million this year.

Steve Short, from the Boycott Workfare Campaign http://www.boycottworkfare.org told The VOAG; “It is staggering that while unemployment continues to rise, the government is replacing paid work by pushing out workfare on a massive scale. The organisations profiting from free labour can afford to pay a wage but are choosing not to. Actions this weekend will show that they risk their reputation if they do not withdraw from workfare.”

It is our duty – as trades unionists, activists, workers and youth to join in the day of action on March 3rd. These schemes are teetering on the edge. One more push and we can close them down for good. Below is a list of demonstrations in London on Saturday March 3rd. Please consider joining one near you or come to the main demonstration in Oxford Street. Details below. 

There are several government forced labour schemes – and no matter what the government says there is an element of compulsion to all of them.The Work Experience Scheme –
This scheme is designed for 16 to 24 year olds. The government admits that young people who refuse to go on the eight-week placements will loose benefits. It intends to create 250,000 Work Experience placements. Once the placement is completed, benefit claimants can be forced to go strait on to another scheme. The placements can be never ending.

The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme –
This scheme is for claimants aged 18 or over. The scheme mandates four weeks’ work unpaid for 30 hours a week. Although the government claims it is “community work”, its definition of this includes private companies. 24,010 people were mandated to take part in MWA between May and November last year.

Community Action Programme
Jobseekers are referred for up to 30 hours unpaid work per week for six months. They can be stacking shelves or tossing your burgers. The government says the Community Action Programme is designed for the benefit of the community. It is a clear sign that the government intends to use forced labour to replace the gaps left in public service delivery in the wake of service cuts. Provider guidelines suggest that a community placement would be appropriate at Local Authorities and Councils, Government Departments and Agencies, Charities and third sector organisations, Social Enterprises, and Environmental Agencies.

The Work Programme
370,000 people were referred to the Work Programme between June and November 2011. 850,000 people are expected to be forced on to the programme by the end of the year. Ingeus, which administers Mandatory Work Assignments in the East Midlands and the North-East (owned by city financiers Deloitte) force people to do six month workfare placements. The Work Programme, is expected to cost the taxpayer £5 billion pounds. Claimants loose all benefits if they refuse to go on the scheme or drop out before its completion. Once the six month programme is concluded, job seekers can be required to immediately start another work placement. For more information on these schemes and for tips on how to avoid them visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

Workfare Doesn’t Work
On the 1st of April 2011, the Social Security Advisory Committee advised the government not to introduce Mandatory Work Activity. Its report said there was “no evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”. It continued: “there is evidence to suggest that by limiting the time available for job search activities, Mandatory Work Activity can in fact reduce the participants’ chances of finding employment.

The Committee stated “it appears to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviors and skills”. The report continued: “there is a risk that the presence of Mandatory Work Activity on a jobseeker’s CV could stigmatise a jobseeker when applying for a job in the future.
The report went on to say that the Committee is “very concerned that this is an exploitation of people who have no choice” and there is no provision to “monitor employers or to end their involvement should they be found exploiting participants or requiring them to undertake inappropriate work.

There is no requirement for “employers” to provide equipment, for example clothing. There is no provision for job seekers to take time off for illness or to attend medical appointments, or to look after a child if it falls sick. There is no requirement for the employer or placement administrator to reimburse expenses for travel or childcare. The lack of childcare costs will make it impossible for one-parent families to participate in the programmes, leaving them vulnerable to benefit sanctions.

This 18 page report by the governments own Social Security Advisory Committee ends in big bold letters in a text box, copied and pasted from the report below:A4E and Emma Harrison
These schemes don’t come cheap. They are administered by private companies. A4E is one such company. Emma Harrison, the chair of A4E has had to step down from the company she founded, together with her government post as “Back to Work Czar”, after being caught with her hands in the till. Ruling-class scum like Harrison preach about benefit scroungers, whilst they take home millions. Whilst her company is mired in fraud and corruption scandals, Harrison paid herself £8.6m last year.

The only revenue A4E earns comes from our taxes. It is paid by the government according to the numbers of job seekers it manages to force on to government schemes. The Guardian reported on 22nd February that A4E was under police investigation. It had been forcing job seekers to work unpaid in its own offices in order to get the “placement” commissions. Jobseekers were forced to work in their offices in Woolwich, Camden and Holloway or have their benefits stopped. The investigation, reported the Guardian, also revealed that from the 12 months to late June 2011 the company sent people to work unpaid in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Oxfam and a host of other businesses.

A “company official, who did not want to be named” was quoted in the Guardian, as saying; “that in addition to the revenue from the commissions and the free labour, sending jobseekers to work in its offices helped A4e cut down on its overheads as it didn’t have to spend time on organising placements”.

So far four A4E employees have been arrested, and the head of the Commons Public Spending Watchdog has demanded the government stops working with A4E until the police investigation is completed. The Public Spending watchdog has highlighted that A4E has been named preferred bidder for a £15 million contract with the Skills Funding Agency to provide education to prisoners in London.

A4E admitted that the present police investigation was only one out of a total of ten cases of corruption that had been referred to the Dpt of Work and Pensions. As a result, the company has been forced to repay public funds on five separate occasions due to “irregularities”.

The  Dept of Work and Pensions has also criticised A4e for paying £11 million in dividends last year, 87% to Ms Harrison, despite all its £180 million UK turnover resulting from Government welfare to work contracts. In addition to these incredible sums of public money, Emma Harrison also received nearly £2 million from leasing properties she owned or controlled back to her business.

The allegations against A4e are unending. Jobseekers report being made to sign blank time sheets, and of government vouchers—intended to help the jobless buy adequate clothing for interviews—being stolen by advisers. Its also been accused of claiming that jobseekers have found full-time work placements, when their jobs lasted less than 24 hours.

According to the Mail On Sunday, A4E receives a fee of £400 for every jobseeker referred to it. When that person finds work for 26 weeks—whether it is continuous or in breaks—it receives £1,200, followed by a monthly “sustainment fee”. It is estimated that A4E earns approximately £13,000 for every successful placement.

A dossier compiled on A4E includes the complaint that the firm was “nothing short of a gravy train”, in which fraud was “systemic” and “common practice”. In response, an unamed Labour MP contacted the Guardian to say Labour MPs were concerned that the MWA programme had not been scrutinised by the Commons and had passed into law with the “tick of a minister’s pen” last year.

Other Workfare providers include REED, SERCO and Atos – and they are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of billions. It is they who depend on state handouts not the unemployed. Seetec made £53 million last year from its involvement in the Work Programme, while Ingenus was awarded contracts worth £727 million.
Social Security Advisory Committee Report, April 2011: Condemming the Workfare programmes. Read Here.

Where to go on the March 3rd Day Of Action Against Workfare
Islington            10am         Outside Angel Islington Tube

Brixton              12pm         Outside Tesco, 13 Acre Lane, Brixton

Brixton              12pm         Outside Brixton Job Centre

Kingston              1pm         Outside Starbucks, Kingston

Oxford Street    11.30am      Outside BHS

Ealing                 1pm          The Arcadia Center, 50/52 Broadway

Lewisham            1pm         Outside McDonalds, Lewisham High Street

Walthamstow     12pm         Outside Nat West bank, Walthamstow Town Square

Hackney             12pm         By St Augustines Tower, Mare Street

Stratford             12pm         Westfield Center
For a comprehensive list of Workfare demos and actions around the country visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) joined the Kingston SWP for a  demonstration against Workfare. Kingston Town Centre, February 22nd, 2012.

Below is a quick Powerpoint report on the evenings events together with a few pictures.
Please click on the picture below.For more on this story, click: https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/workfare-demo-kingston/

The next National Day Of Action aginst Workfare will be on Saturday, March 3rd. Protest outside BHS, Oxford Street from 11.30.  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

For more about Workfare and tips on how to avoid being trapped in to it by the Job Center, go to  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Tesco is boosting it’s £4 billion profits by using the slave labour provided by the Government’s ‘Workfare’ schemes. Take the fight against Tesco into the streets of Kingston on the National Day of Action against Tesco. Wednesday, 22nd, February. 5:30pm until 6:30pm, Kingston Station

From Corporate Watch
The campaign against workfare has claimed some major successes over the last month, with Sainsburys, Waterstones and TK Maxx bowing to pressure and pulling out of some (though not all) of the government’s workfare programmes. Other companies now face a dilemma: do they also withdraw to avoid further bad publicity, or do they continue to enjoy the free labour that workfare brings? Corporate Watch finds the benefits of workfare for retailers such as Asda and Argos make it difficult to say no to.

Over the Christmas period for example, the government’s eagerness to send unemployed people on unpaid placements meant stores did not need to go to the trouble of hiring and paying temporary workers as they would normally. Joe Wilson, a 21 year old on Jobseekers Allowance, worked a four-day week, unpaid, for six weeks from the middle of November at the Asda superstore in Harrogate, Yorkshire.He told Corporate Watch: “There were about 15 of us on placements. The manager said they had overspent on stocking Christmas stuff so they’d got people in on placements [to save money]. The paid staff told us they were being asked to leave before they’d ended their shift as we could do the work. I worked Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They arranged it so everyone came in those days.”

 His Jobcentre had said that if he didn’t attend the placement his benefits could be stopped: “The Jobcentre had got a group of us in for CV writing training. It was really obvious stuff – don’t use a crayon and so on. When we were there they said some people had come to speak to us about a work experience programme. Then a few days later I got a letter saying that, as I’d expressed an interest they’d be organising a work placement. The letter said if I didn’t go they’d stop my JSA. I’d never said I wanted to do a placement in Asda.”

A spokesperson at Asda’s head office told Corporate Watch that the company hadn’t received any reports of workfare placements replacing paid staff and they would “investigate further,” adding the placements were “not designed to substitute colleague roles”. Despite several follow-up calls and emails, we have not heard anything since.

Argos: discount products, discount labour
A claimant in Bristol told Corporate Watch how paid Christmas work in the Argos store in the Galleries shopping centre disappeared when the company realised it could get people in for nothing on workfare placements. ‘Jason’, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Seetec, the ‘provider’ company that he was sent to by the Jobcentre, had arranged an interview for him and 13 others for temporary work. They were not hired because the store instead took people on unpaid placements organised by Prospect, another employment provider company, which ironically has its Bristol office in the same building as Seetec.

Argos told Corporate Watch that its stores had “liaised over our peak Christmas trading period with local job centres to offer working opportunities to job seekers through initiatives called work placements or work trial”. The retailer went on to say it is currently assessing whether its trials over the Christmas period will continue and that it “endeavoured to offer permanent roles to young people” after the placements. Corporate Watch asked how many permanent roles had been offered but we have not received a reply. Prospect did not reply to any of our enquiries.

You’re supposed to find me a job, not turn me into a slave!
Workfare does not only replace paid work at Christmas. ‘Chris’ was sent to do a three month placement in Booker Wholesale in Bath. He told Corporate Watch that when the placement commenced the manager said that if he worked hard he would get a job, but he soon found out that this was unlikely:

“I asked the manager about jobs and he said: ‘keep working as you are and you will be fine’. The turning point came for me about two months in, when two part-time employees were laid off for stealing some alcohol. I thought there would be a job for me but they hired the brother of an employee already working there. I went to see the manager and he said that there were no positions. He suggested I could continue doing four days a week unpaid. I left in disgust and took my last two days off. They had the nerve to say: ‘what if we are counting on you to be there?’ Then hire me! You’re supposed to help me find a job, not turn me into a slave.”

Paid employment ‘unlikely’
Workfare is becoming such a popular way for retailers to staff their stores that they are finding it hard to keep count of how many workfare staff they have. A spokesperson for entertainment retailer HMV told Corporate Watch its placements are organised on “a more localised basis” so it is difficult to “fully track all the placements in place across the chain at any one time.” But at least the company is less coy than Argos and Booker about the likelihood these placements will lead to paid work, admitting: “it’s unlikely that [a] large number will go on to achieve full time paid employment with the company.”

Have you been sent on an unpaid work placement or do you know someone who has? Contact Corporate Watch on 02074260005 or contact corporatewatch.org

National Day of Action against Tesco.
Wednesday 22nd, February
5:30pm until 6:30pm Kingston Station
Wood Street, KT1 1TG London, United Kingdom