Tag Archive: square


End the Workfare Programmes now!

Picket stores in the West End on May 1st after the May Day Parade.
Meet Up At Clerkenwell Green 12 Noon May 1st.

From the Solidarity Federation
As part of the ongoing campaign against the five government-endorsed work placement schemes (commonly known as Workfare), the Solidarity Federation has called for a series of lightning pickets throughout the West End of London to mark the end of the traditional Mayday Parade from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square. join the parade, join the pickets!

 The organisation claims that its actions will focus on three of the largest businesses that have signed up for the Workfare scheme – Holland and Barrett, Greggs the Bakers, and McDonalds – and one of the Workfare service providers, A4e. There are currently five workfare programmes being run by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in conjunction with a number of private and voluntary sector companies. The five programmes are: The Work Programme, The Community Action Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, Work Experience and the Sector-based Work Academies.

The Con-Dem government, and the previous Labour government, have borrowed these “payment by results” re-employment schemes from models previously in place in Australia; schemes which failed in their intent to reduce government subsidy and led to tighter control of the schemes. (1) Here in the UK we have now witnessed six arrests on suspected fraud at the workfare provider A4e and calls in Parliament for the DWP to release all the incidents of suspected fraud within these programmes. (2) Perhaps they have just realised that Ingeus UK is 50% owned by the long-term Australian workfare provider Ingeus… (the other 50% is owned by the accountancy firm Deloitte who have frequently been fined for failing compliance issues).

The A4e scandal, the embarrassing questions raised by companies such as Argos and Tesco about the mandatory elements of these schemes at the highly publicised meeting between the government and business using workfare staff on February 29th, and the continuing campaign by Boycott Workfare, have raised the issue to such an extent that a recent Freedom of Information request has shown that three of the five workfare programmes have had the mandatory sanctions – the delay or removal of benefit payments – “temporarily” suspended. (3) What that doesn’t reveal is that claimants are now being shunted onto one of the schemes where it is still in place, with Mandatory Work Activity placements. (4)At a conference on 18th April 2012 the Con-Dem think-tank, Policy Exchange, who boast the reforms in the NHS amongst their successes, revealed the true intent behind the move towards encouraging the private sector into workfare: the reform of the Jobcentre Plus to be wholly run by private and third sector organisations (under a new scheme called “Community Link”), where the employees are also paid by performance targets – “National pay bargaining should also be ended” – increased individual claimant data-collection and profiling, the introduction of smartcards to claimants to prevent them from purchasing unnecessary items with their benefits and the increase in job-search requirements to become equivalent to the regular 35 hour working week. Claimants will continue to be means-tested, but will not be able to make a claim until they can prove they have already sought work for two weeks from the start of their unemployment. (5)

The Workfare programmes are unsuccessful re-employment schemes that continue to blame the young, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the recently imprisoned for the incompetence and failures of successive governments to face up to the economic basis of laissez-faire capitalism. It has become acceptable to blame the vulnerable individual for their lack of employment opportunities, rather than recognise the imbalance between the need for so-called “austerity measures” and the requirement to prop-up business profits.

In continuing to believe the mythical “Big Society” will allow private enterprise to furnish the unemployed with new jobs, the government continues to fund a series of privately-owned companies with taxpayer monies despite the failure of these companies to meet their contracted targets. It is a way of making profits from the unfortunate and the impoverished. The limited numbers of “third sector” groups involved in Workfare – charities and other voluntary organisations – are usually specialist groups who are already being squeezed out of the market in favour of global providers like ATOS and Ingeus.

“The only way to halt these policies is to make them more expensive to enforce than to drop,” Song continued. “This means discouraging businesses from adopting these schemes and exposing the providers who benefit from Workfare.”

Potential sites for protest can be viewed at the following Google Map at: http://g.co/maps/wx93f


END NOTES

1.)   http://www.redpepper.org.uk/a4e-a-scandal-so-big-it-could-be-seen-from-2008/

5.)   “Personalised Welfare: Rethinking employment support and Job Centres”; Ed Holmes, Policy Exchange, 2011 pp71-3. (ISBN 978-1-907689-10-9); “No Rights Without Responsibility: Rebalancing the welfare state”; Matthew Oakley and Peter Saunders, Policy Exchange, 2011 (Hand out, headed “Summary May 2011”).

For a background to the government’s Workfare programme See:
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/anti-workfare-demonstration-march-3rd-2012

A VOAG Reader’s March 26th, TUC Protest Report.

It was an impressive show of strength for trades unionism in Britain with 500,000 people heeding the TUC call to demonstrate. Anyone who thought trades unions were dated or irrelevant should think again.

It was the largest demonstration I’ve ever witnessed, but also the quietest. There was very little chanting and the march moved very slowly. The demonstration was so large that those at the front of the march arrived at Hyde Park, the finish point, several hours before others had even started. The TUC was showcasing its “modern trades unionism”. Gone was the sea of red and brass bands- and in its place was a multicoloured, blue, yellow and purple river of people. This was “family-friendly trades unionism”.

I walked quicker than the march. I wanted to see as much of it as possible. Every so often I passed a samba band or individuals in fancy dress. There were small clusters of ‘black blockers’. They were not engaged in direct actions and many appeared to be wearing masks as nothing more than a  “protest fashion”.

I saw no confrontations along the march itself. Whilst the demonstration was still progressing, splinter groups were defacing shops in Oxford Street. However most protesters weren’t aware of what was happening in other parts of the City.

I stopped for a break at Trafalgar Square. College students had made a ten foot wooden horse and were parading it around the square. An hour later I watched them set it on fire in the middle of Oxford Circus. Once I reached Hyde Park, I took a walk down Oxford Street. I saw paint splattered windows and the remains of small fires on the road, but the confrontations that had accompanied the limited damage had died down- or had moved on.
I turned towards Trafalgar Square. As I reached the Square, I came across a sound system on a trailer being pulled by a bicycle. It was travelling up the Mall in the opposite direction. A dozen people were following it, dancing as they went. It was playing a mixture of drum and base and dub-step, with an MC chanting through a microphone. I turned around and followed it up the Mall, back towards Oxford Street.

As the sound system made its way to Oxford Street, many others started to follow the sound system. In no time, there were two thousand youth behind us. Dancing, and chanting along with the music. Shoppers and bystanders looked on totally bemused.

This was a different kind of demonstration. Vibrant, energetic, but entirely peaceful. Those that controlled the microphone constantly reminded all those that followed: “This is a peaceful demonstration” and “we are not here to be violent or to vandalise”. Two thousand of us danced up the street chanting along with the music: “Down with the government down” and “One solution revolution”.

We made our way back to Hyde Park, and after a short break turned around, to return once more to Trafalgar Square.

The routes back to the Square were blocked by police –and what followed was a cat and mouse game through side streets to get around the police blocks. We eventually squeezed down an alley and into the Square to be met by cheers and applause from those already there.

We came to a stop beneath Trafalgar’s lions, music still pumping- and there we stayed. As the evening drew-on our numbers thinned to around five hundred. Groups were sitting round small fires, chatting and sharing food and wine. Many people were sitting on the steps in front of the National Gallery, listening to the music. Police were wandering around the square, but keeping a low profile- and were generally friendly.

At 11pm, a hundred riot police appeared on the North side of the square, by the side of the National Gallery. Without warning they charged into the people sitting on the stairs, kicking and hitting them with their shields and batons. As the people fled, those that were hit or were slower, were herded into one corner and detained.

More police appeared at the southern side of the square, behind Nelson’s Column. Without warning they charged at the people who were either dancing or sitting around. As police lines formed, to encircle the entire square and to “kettle” all those inside; a few of us managed to escape to the last train back to Guildford.

NOTE:
Video Report on the March (Not the author)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zii2qzGbaM&feature=player_embedded

For another account of Trafalgar Square:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/03/trafalgar-square-police-young