Know your rights on the work programme: you don’t have to show work programme providers your claimant commitment

Via the always-excellent Johnny Void, I found this DWP memo, which has some useful information about the rights of claimants sent on the work programme:

“From the 23rd March 2015, we have agreed that it would be beneficial for Work Programme Providers to potentially have sight of the Claimant Commitment at the first point of contact.

Sharing of the Claimant Commitment is voluntary but is encouraged… If the claimant refuses to share their Claimant Commitment you should not take any further action to pursue.”

If you’re wondering why the DWP wants work programme providers to be able to see your Claimant Commitment, it’s spelt out that it can provide “Information on messaging around a claimant’s non-compliance with work related requirements”. So, translated out of bureaucrat-speak and into English, that means that the jobcentre wants work programme contractors to be able to see your Claimant Commitment in order that they can grass you up and get you sanctioned. But, though they’ll try to get you to do it, it is voluntary, and they don’t have any powers to punish you for not doing it.

Of course, as ever with the jobcentre and the various shady companies who make their money from DWP contracts, there’s always the risk that they’ll try to intimidate you, so if you think they might try and pressure you it’s probably worth going to the library or somewhere to print off a copy of the DWP memo so you can prove that they’re not meant to take any action to pursue your claimant commitment.

And, as ever, our legal rights are only worth as much as we’re able to enforce them by acting together, so it’s a good idea to make sure that everyone else on your work programme course knows about their right to refuse. With a bit of luck, chatting about your right to say “no” to the work programme contractors over this issue could lead to bigger conversations about other ways the jobcentre and private companies try to screw claimants over, and ways you and the other people on the work programme could try and stand together to stop them. Good luck!

Posted in Know your rights, Unemployment, claimants and welfare | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another round-up of repression and resistance

Once again, it’s been a busy week, especially on the legal/repression front. To start off with a bit of an international round-up: In the US, Dante Cano has been bailed out of prison, but is still facing charges, and Bay Area activists are asking for solidarity with Kali, a comrade who’s serving a four-year prison sentence following his arrest during Occupy Oakland, as well as encouraging people to write to Davontae Smith, who’s been in jail since November after being arrested at a Ferguson solidarity protest. Over in China, five feminists are still being held in jail, and sixteen more were detained for showing solidarity with them. A lengthy interview with one of their friends has been translated in two parts here and here. Chinese socialists have called for international solidarity protests to be held outside Chinese embassies (in the UK, there are Chinese embassies in the UK in Manchester and Edinburgh as well as London, so people in a range of locations can get involved). And over in Sweden, a growing number of anti-fascists are being imprisoned, and their comrades have launched an appeal for financial support.

Back in the UK, there’s also a lot of news from the prisons and detention centers: 72-year-old Sylvia Boyes has been given a two-week prison sentence after being convicted for obstructing the highway during a protest against the DSEi arms fair, Shilan Ozcelik is still being held in prison for wanting to fight against ISIS, and her address has now been confirmed, and the wave of protests and hunger strikes rocking the immigration detention system is still ongoing. In yet more repression-related news, a new campaign’s been set up against IPP, the law that means some prisoners can be kept in jail after their sentence finishes, and a fundraiser and info night will be held in Bristol in early April. Also this week, South Wales anarchists are asking for friends to join them on Tuesday evening in Cardiff and Wednesday morning in London ahead of their court case over the activities of spycop Mark Jacobs, and blacklisted worker Dave Smith is due in court on Friday, having been arrested at the Construction News Awards last week while highlighting Crossrail’s dodgy record of firing workers who raise safety concerns. To support Dave, and the principle that people shouldn’t be fired for highlighting life-threatening safety hazards, please join him at court on Friday 27th at Westminster Magistrates Court, 181 Marylebone Rd, NW1 5BR from 9am onwards.

Also related to the ongoing struggles in construction, employers on Teesside have been attempting to undermine industry standard conditions, and so a network of Teesside Construction Activists have started fighting back – construction’s one of the last few remaining industries with a strong culture of rank-and-file organisation, and so this new group look like one to watch, I’d certainly suggest that anyone in that area of the North-East should try and lend a hand where possible.

Over in Dublin, this weekend saw another great showing by the ongoing movement against water charges, which is still one of the most impressive anti-austerity movements to emerge in any English-speaking country over the last few years – see Solidarity Times for more coverage of the movement.

A small section of the massive water charges march going through Dublin.

Finally, as chronicled by North East and Brighton Antifascists, it’s been a busy, and mostly a very bad weekend for the far-right: the White Man March in Newcastle encountered heavy opposition that prevented them being able to march along their designated route, and left their supporters complaining that National Action let their “mates take a kicking off lefty scum”. Britain First got their banner nicked in London, and Pegida’s launch in Scotland amazingly managed to be even more embarrassing than their first day out in England, with four people taking part in their demo. But on a more serious note, while the anti-Semitic march in London scheduled for today has been postponed, last night saw a synagogue attacked in Stamford Hill, and nazis have claimed responsibility:

Screenshot of "national liberation" nazis claiming responsibility for the synagogue attack.

A few more items of anti-racist news to conclude: Nigel Farage got chased out of his local while having lunch, and the Anti-Fascist Network have put a thoughtful statement out about child abuse, and are calling for people to come to Oxford on the 4th April to support survivors and oppose the EDL’s attempt to hijack this issue to promote their own agenda.

Antifascists with the seized BF banner.

Posted in Gender, Protests, Racism, Repression, The right, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

No more deaths at work, no more deaths from benefit sanctions: two vital events this week

Just a quick reminder about two important events coming up this week:

On Wednesday 18th March, construction workers are calling for a mass picket outside the Construction News Awards following the sackings of workers for raising safety issues at Crossrail – a site where several workers have already lost their lives due to industrial accidents.
6pm Wed 18th March
Construction News Awards
Hilton Hotel
Park Lane
London

Crossrail

On Thursday 19th of March, there’ll be protests against benefit sanctions at jobcentres across the country. Just as poor health and safety standards put us in danger when we’re in work, the threat of benefit sanctions causes deaths among those of us who are out of work. Looking further ahead, it’s worth noting that Boycott Workfare are calling for another week of action against workfare from 25th April-2nd May, as well as a welfare action gathering later in May. Whether we’re in paid work or not, we all need collective action to defend our living standards, and sometimes our very lives: these events are a promising contribution towards rebuilding that culture.

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Their prisons and our gardens: mid-March round-up

Opening up this round-up of stories, it seems like there’s been a lot of news on the legal/repression front: over in the US, Dante Cano, an anarchist arrested for participation in the popular revolt against racist police killings last year, is facing trial, and is currently trying to raise funds to pay for his bail. If you can afford to spare anything, please consider donating, if not, then you can still write to him at:

Santa Rita Jail
Dante Cano BIX230
5325 Broder Blvd.
Dublin, CA 94568

You can also write to Davontae Smith, another prisoner of the post-Ferguson revolt being held in the same jail, at:
Santa Rita Jail
Davontae Smith BGK969
5325 Broder Blvd.
Dublin, CA 94568

Meanwhile, there’s a solidarity campaign being launched for Alexander Kolchenko, a Crimean anarchist being held by the Russian regime under nonsensical charges that he belongs to Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, and over in China, the police rounded up five feminist activists on the eve of International Women’s Day – see the Free the Five tumblr or Free Chinese Feminists facebook page for more information about how to support them. Back in the UK, Emma Sheppard is still imprisoned, and has been moved to a new address, while Silhan/Shilan Ozcelik, a young Kurdish woman, is now being held in remand on charges that she wanted to go to Syria to fight with the YPG/YPJ against ISIS. You can sign a petition in support of her here, or write to her at Silhan Ozcelik, c/o Av. Ali Has, Morgan Has Solicitors, Bank Chambers, 1st & 2nd Floor, 133 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 0PH. The UK’s system of detention centres for migrants seems to be seeing an outbreak of rebellion, as tracked on the Detained Voices blog.

Meanwhile, over in Ireland, a somewhat more positive story: the four jailed water charges protesters have been released, and appear to have overturned the basis for their contempt conviction. While the water charges movement seems to be going from strength to strength in the Republic of Ireland, the North also seems to be seeing some level of fight against austerity, with a huge public sector strike taking place last week.

In workplace news, Brighton SolFed are reporting yet another victory in their ongoing organising against wage theft, and rank-and-file construction workers in London are calling for a mass picket of the Construction News Awards to stop the sackings of workers raising safety concerns at Crossrail, which will be at 6pm, Wed 18th March, Construction News Awards, Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London. This week has also seen former undercover cop Peter Francis confirm that police spies colluded with employers to help blacklist militant construction workers, among others. And speaking of spycops, South Wales anarchists will be in the courts next week fighting to hold the police accountable for the conduct of undercover cop Mark Jacobs, and are asking supporters to join them in Cardiff on the 24th and London on the 25th.

Other upcoming events include the national day of action against benefit sanctions on Thursday, and then action against neo-nazis at opposite ends of the country next weekend, with National Action attempting to march through Newcastle on the 21st and an anti-Semitic demo planned for London that’s going to be opposed by a musical taking the piss as well as more conventional street opposition. Next Saturday will also see a talk in Brighton by the Invisible Committee – I have to admit that I’ve never read much of their stuff, and what I have read I didn’t get that much out of, but it sounds worth a look if you’re into that kind of thing.

And finally, just to end on a positive note, folk in New Cross are trying to raise funds for a new public garden to serve as a genuinely common space and a resource for self-managed local events and activities. It sounds like an interesting attempt to create a welcoming community space that’s not run by the state or private companies, and might be worth chucking a few quid their way if you have any to spare.

Posted in Anarchists, Protests, Racism, Repression, Strikes, The right, Unemployment, claimants and welfare | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Call of the West: new workers’ paper launched in West London

For a while now, the Angry Workers of the World collective have been living, working, and struggling in West London, particularly in the warehouse sector, and their work has been interesting to watch from a distance. Now they’re launching a new aspect of their project: a West London workers’ newspaper, which they want to distribute around workplaces and jobcentres in the local area. As they put it:

“This year we want to start publishing and circulating 2,000 copies of a local newspaper, mainly in front of warehouses, food processing plants, local hospitals and job centres. The local workers are predominantly from Eastern Europe and South Asia. We hope that the monthly distribution of the newspaper will help in setting up an information and solidarity network, including through social events such as film screenings etc.
How can we collaborate?
We are eager to exchange experiences with individuals and collectives which engage in similar activities of regular political propaganda and analysis of the difficulties of workers’ self-organisation.
We need information about struggles abroad, with a focus on warehouse and logistics work. If you have any first- or second-hand reports concerning this sector, please write to us (in any of the languages into which we have translated this letter).”

You can read the first issue of their paper here, and if you’d be interested in collaborating, whether you live in West London or further afield, you can contact them at angryworkersworld@gmail.com

Posted in Work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

News from the jobcentres, assessment centres, and prisons: late February round-up

Another quick round-up of news across a few different areas:

In repression news, five water charge protesters are still in jail in Ireland for protesting against water meter installations. I’ve not been able to find any addresses to write to the five in jail, but I’ll keep looking. In the mean time, the movement’s not taken this attack lying down, with a fresh wave of angry protests in response, as well as ongoing resistance preventing water meters from being installed. It’s difficult keeping up with the myriad of facebook pages reporting on what seems to be a genuinely decentralised movement, but Release the Water Warriors NOW seems to be the main campaign for the release of the five, and the Workers’ Solidarity Movement continue to provide ongoing reporting from an anarchist perspective. Meanwhile, closer to home, the ongoing police crackdown on anarchists in Bristol has resulted in its first jailing, with Emma Sheppard being given two years for damaging the tyres of police cars.

You can write to Emma at:

Emma Sheppard
A7372DJ
HMP Eastwood Park
Church Avenue
Falfield
Wotton-under-Edge
Gloucestershire
GL12 8DB

Also in repression news, Edinburgh SolFed are continuing with their regular protests against the Operation Pandora campaign against anarchists in Spain, with the next one planned for Friday 6th March.

In workplace news, London IWW are still continuing with their campaigns for sacked Friends House Hospitality workers and the staff of the Leicester Square School of English. As part of the latter campaign, there’s going to be a picket of a bridge tournament held by the Drapers’ Guild in order to hold wage-stealing boss and Drapers’ Guild member Craig Tallents to account, which will be happening in the afternoon of Monday 2nd March. Meanwhile, blacklisting campaigners have a piece in the Guardian highlighting their struggle and the extent of state collusion in corporate spying, and the Independent’s also been reporting on how British Airways spied on its own staff. Also, I’ve previously reported on how Crossrail promised to reinstate a sacked worker less than an hour into a protest against the dismissal – they’ve now gone back on their word, and so further action is needed to pressure them into seeing sense. The next protest against the sacking will be meeting outside Bond Street tube station at 7am on Monday 2nd. The national construction rank-and-file and the Blacklist Support Group will both be meeting next Saturday in Glasgow, and have said that all supporters are welcome to attend.

 

In welfare news, we’re in the middle of a string of national days of action: this week saw action at jobcentres across the UK in solidarity with Tony Cox, the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist arrested for accompanying a claimant to a jobcentre interview, and next week sees the day of action against Maximus, with actions planned at an impressive list of locations across the UK, as well as in Toronto. Following on from that, there’s also the national day of action against benefit sanctions on the 19th. Some claimant activists have criticised this as not offering genuine opposition to sanctions, and it’s certainly true that there’s a contradiction between Unite Community’s opposition to sanctions and the Unite leadership’s support for Labour, and so for benefit sanctions, but I don’t think this is a reason not to take part: instead, rank-and-file claimants should make sure that the message on the ground is one of total opposition to all sanctions from whatever quarter, not support for Labour electioneering.

Dorset IWW at Bournemouth jobcentre

In antifascist news, it’s good to see that the opposition massively outnumbered Pegida’s attempt at a rally in Newcastle today, since antifascist turnout in the North-East hasn’t always been consistently strong, and while it doesn’t seem that anymore confrontational opposition took place, the North-East Antifascists leaflet for the march at least put across a good class position. Meanwhile, the national Anti-Fascist Network have listed a number of events coming up in March.

The ongoing housing movement continues to develop, especially in London: most notably at the Aylesbury estate occupation, which is still ongoing. They’re next in court on March 4th, and are asking for supporters to turn up at Lambeth court then.

Finally, a few early libertarian responses to the election: Angry Not Apathetic is the Anarchist Federation’s anti-electoral campaign, while Plan C Manchester have set out their campaign statement.

So, just to sum up: this Monday sees a rank-and-file construction worker protest against unfair sackings at Crossrail from 7.30 in the morning, claimant-led action against Maximus and the Work Capacity Assessment at around 30 sites across the country (and Canada), and then a picket of a bridge tournament at the Drapers’ Guild in the evening targeting wage-stealing boss Craig Tallents. And that’s just the Monday. Busy days.

Posted in Anarchists, Disability, Housing, Occupations, Protests, Racism, Repression, The right, Unemployment, claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Dangerous talk: things I’ve learned from the media in the last few weeks

Things I’ve learnt from the media recently:

If a specialist professional commentator – a journalist, academic, or someone like that – wants to say something, then that’s free speech and debate, and everyone should pay attention to their opinion.

If people who aren’t specialist professional commentators want to say what they think about those professional commentators, or voice their opinion about whether or not they want to hear from them, or have a conversation about which venues might be suitable for certain speakers, that’s not free speech or engaging in debate, that’s dangerous censorship and a threat to our freedoms.

If working-class people who aren’t specialist professional commentators get arrested for saying the wrong thing in the wrong place, or if they get jailed for protesting and then launch a hunger strike… well, that’s not a free speech issue, that’s not even really a news story worth reporting on much. Free speech is about a few specialist professionals having the freedom to say what they want wherever they want, if ordinary working-class people get jailed for protesting in the wrong place that’s just the way things are.

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