update on 30th march forum

We are pleased to announce an addition to the line-up of speakers for The Commune’s 30th March London forum on “what unions do we have, and what unions do we need?”.

Fabien Liberski is the Convenor and Health & Safety Officer in Southwark Council, and was victimised by his employer with the collusion of UNISON bureaucrats.

He will be speaking alongside Alberto Einstein Durango, a cleaner activist involved in disputes at Schroders and Willis in the City of London, in the face of resistance by the Unite union; and John Moloney, a PCS activist in the Department for Work and Pensions.

The meeting is from 7pm on Monday 30th March at the Lucas Arms, near King’s Cross. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info, and see here for a map.

‘giving jobseekers the support they need’

Joe Thorne introduces an anonymous testimony by a young unemployed person, in the context of the government’s plans for further ‘welfare reform’.

This is an account by a ‘customer’ of the Department for Work and Pensions – that is, an unemployed person seeking work.  In particular, the account describes their experiences at the hands of DWP subcontractor Action4Employment, or A4E as they are better known.  A4E administer elements of the New Deal Program; their treatment of working class people is something we can expect more of if the Welfare Abolition Bill goes through.  They also treat their staff appallingly.

The account is also valuable because it shows how different aspects of the ‘welfare state’ can intersect to create a labyrinth of abuse for disadvantaged working class people.  One example of this, rarely mentioned, is the poverty trap of temporary accommodation, in which parents of families who are housed by local authorities are penalised for working to the tune of hundreds of pounds a week.  For the testimony of some Hackney temporary accommodation residents, see here.

I have been a client of A4e and was appalled by how I was treated.  I will start by telling you a little of my background. I had hit rock bottom in my life, lost my job and was living in a hostel with a lot of debt and was trying to rebuild everything I’d lost. I was waiting to start university and had already been accepted. Because of the situation I was in at the time I could not afford to take a minimum wage job and was waiting for council housing to become available. I was in a supported hostel for young girls and if you start work while living there the weekly rent is extortionate.

Regardless of my personal circumstances I was forced to go to A4e and told I would lose my benefits if I didn’t attend. I already had low self esteem because I hadn’t been working for the previous 6 months and had tried to get a job that would cover all of my bills. I had even voluntarily taken up typing courses and had got my level 3 qualifications in the hope that I could get a job that paid enough. I was also waiting to start voluntary work at citizen advice but I couldn’t start there because of attending A4e. Continue reading “‘giving jobseekers the support they need’”

30th march london forum: what unions do we have, and what do we need?

The next of The Commune’s ‘uncaptive minds‘ forums on “capitalism and the working class today” is on the subject of “what unions do we have, and what do we need?

The meeting, taking place at the Lucas Arms near London’s King’s Cross from 7pm on Monday 30th, will be looking at the decomposition of the official labour movement in recent decades; the signs of revival of class struggle and the new forms of activism taking place among the casual workforce;  and the dynamics of rank and file and bureaucracy, and how we can empower self-organisation.

The speakers leading off the discussion will be John Moloney, a PCS activist in the Department for Work and Pensions; Fabien Liberski, Convenor and Health & Safety Officer in Southwark Council, who was victimised by his employer with the collusion of UNISON bureaucrats; and Alberto Einstein Durango, a cleaner activist who played an important role in the victory of cleaners at Schroders in the City of London and is now helping with the Mitie/Willis campaign in the face of resistance by the Unite union.

All are welcome to come and take part in the debate. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to register your interest or to find out more information. A map appears below.

photo-report of protest against welfare reform bill

Today a group of protesters staged a demonstration inside a Government building as part of a Week of Action in opposition to controversial welfare reforms.

Dozens of activists stormed into a Department for Work and Pensions building in Westminster, shouting slogans and saying they were going to occupy the offices.

The protesters, from groups including Feminist Fightback and anti-poverty organisations, were dressed as bankers. They described the Government’s planned legislation as the “welfare abolition Bill” and claimed the measures would virtually abolish welfare for single parents and disabled people.

One of the protesters, Anne-Marie O’Reilly, from Feminist Fightback and London Coalition Against Poverty, said: “Everyone knows that the Government’s welfare Bill was designed by ex-banker David Freud.

“Even if it weren’t for the banks’ track records, the fact that he has recently defected to the Tories should make it clear this Bill needs to be thrown out.  They will throw us out of the building today, but we think it’s time they really throw the bankers and their interests out of Whitehall and stop penalising poor people, disabled people and single mothers.”

Another activist, Alice Robson, said: “The Government is bailing out the banks and giving them bonuses whilst cutting welfare benefits for the poor.  This Bill does not make sense – the Government should be targeting the rich not the poor to pay for their crisis.”

On this website recently we have published three articles looking at changes in the welfare system: Joe Thorne’s overview of the Welfare Reform Bill and this week’s Week of Action, Christine Hulme on Jobcentre privatisation and Chris Grover on unemployment under Brown and the recession.

See below for photos of today’s action. Continue reading “photo-report of protest against welfare reform bill”

week of action to stop the ‘welfare abolition bill’: 7-15 march

by Joe Thorne

A coalition of grassroots organisations, including Feminist Fightback, the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and London Coalition Against Poverty have called a week of action against the government’s plans for welfare ‘reform’.  You can find out more about the government’s plans, and about the perspective of the workers charged with administering them, here and here.

Continue reading “week of action to stop the ‘welfare abolition bill’: 7-15 march”