Demonstrators denouncing sanctions and workfare besieged High Riggs Jobcentre in Edinburgh on Wednesday 29th April.
Braving pouring rain, protesters from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and other groups displayed banners and placards and distributed hundreds of leaflets urging claimants to resist benefits sanctions and the government’s compulsory “work for your benefits” schemes.
At one point the demo moved temporarily from the Jobcentre front door to the staff car park. Here, overlooked by the Jobcentre offices, protesters used a megaphone to direct speeches and chants to those inside. Demonstrators pledged direct action to resist sanctions and workfare, and called for solidarity from Jobcentre workers, pointing out that workfare and sanctions undermine all workers’ wages and conditions – workfare is even being used in Jobcentres!
A representative from the Food Solidarity project, who work with Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and supply food parcels for sanctioned claimants, entered the Jobcentre to ask them to take a food collection sack to put in the staff room. A jobcentre worker initially stated this should be fine, but then a manager ruled that the Jobcentre would not accept the collection sack.
“We support claimants to challenge sanctions and workfare. Together with the claimant concerned, we recently overturned a 4 week sanction imposed on an Edinburgh jobseeker who had informed the boss at his intended workfare placement, Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre, that the community centre should not be participating in such exploiting schemes.
If you are sanctioned – dispute the decision, you have a good chance of overturning the sanction and getting your benefits back. Contact us for support, and see the practical advice here. If you are sent on workfare, don’t just accept it, there are ways to fight back – again, contact us and see the info here.
The tide is turning against workfare – 542 charities and voluntary organisations are now signed up to “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” and are pledged to boycott all forced labour schemes.”
Resistance to sanctions and workfare is part of the wider struggle against all austerity. Standards of living for waged and unwaged are under attack as the crisis exposes the true nature of the exploitative capitalist system. The election won’t solve our problems – we need to develop a movement of direct action to make the rule of bosses and their political protectors unworkable.”
The demo saw Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty joined by banners from the Solidarity Federation, Anarchist Federation, and the Industrial Workers of the World, plus contingents from Greater Leith Against the Cuts and Edinburgh Anti Cuts Alliance. Police attended throughout the two-hour long demonstration, but there were no arrests.
The protest, numbering around 25 participants, was part of a week of action against workfare and sanctions, organised to co-incide with the run-up to the general election, via the Boycott Workfare network. Actions are taking place Britain-wide, in various locations in London and Glasgow, and including Swindon, Leeds, the Wirral, Cambridge and Bristol – plus several actions in the Netherlands, as resistance to workfare goes global.