Tony Cox was arrested back in January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called the police on him to stop him assisting a vulnerable claimant during a jobcentre interview. Now, all these months later, he’s due back in court in October, and a call has gone out for people to take to jobcentres across the country on the 12th or 13th of October to talk to people about their rights to be accompanied at the jobcentre. This would be doubly worthwhile if you can make it – it’s worth giving information to people that might help save them from a sanction, and also the show of defiance will send a clear message to jobcentre bosses that the more they try to repress claimant organising, the more resistance they’ll provoke. So far the only officially confirmed events are for Glasgow, Wales, and Forfar Sheriff’s Court, but I’m sure that more will be announced soon, and it really doesn’t take much effort to organise your own visit to a jobcentre for something like this – a generic and easily-adaptable leaflet is available here for anyone with access to a printer or photocopier.
The original call-out:
In solidarity with arrested Dundonian welfare advocate Tony Cox from Scottish Unemployed Workers Network(SUWN), the IWW, Edinburgh Anarchist Federation and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) will join a host of groups (including SUWN themselves) who will take part in Britain wide days of action on 12th and 13th of October in solidarity with Tony.
WHAT HAPPENED AT ARBROATH JOB CENTRE
Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D’s UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.
The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre. He now faces charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”.
THE RIGHT TO BE ACCOMPANIED
The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirm claimants right to representation. The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”
The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.
The attempt to prevent claimants being represented and accompanied is an assault on welfare advocates but also more importantly claimants and those on benefits – the worst off in society. We will not stand for this.
If this goes unchallenged it will set a worrying precendent.
More info on the right to be accompanied- http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/32
BRITAIN WIDE DAYS OF ACTION
12th and 13th of October. We are calling on activists across Britain to join us in two days of action
See our event page here, https://www.facebook.com/events/950908904957225/
12th October: we will be outside Jobcentres talking about the right to representation.
13th October : activists in Scotland will support Tony at Forfar Sheriff Court.
Outside of Scotland, we’re suggesting groups can choose either day to be outside job centres talking to claimants about the right to be represented and accompanied.
DEMOS PLANNED SO FAR
Glasgow Anarchist Collective(GAC) :- https://www.facebook.com/events/719879511468060/
Wales:- there will be an action involving Cymru IWW and Welsh anarchists and others in Cardiff on the 12th, possibly in Wrexham, Merthyr and other Welsh towns too.
You can follow the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network at http://www.scottishunemployedworkers.net/ or https://www.facebook.com/scottishunemployedworkersnetwork
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ACCOMPANIED TO BENEFITS INTERVIEWS – PDF of leaflet suitable for Britain-wide distribution – with space at end to add a local contact.