Monthly Archives: September 2011

Photos and report from todays Action Against ATOS

15 people joined a demonstration in Birmingham today as a part of a national day of action against ATOS, called by Benefit Claimants Fight Back, and supported by a host of disability and welfare campaign and support groups.
In Birmingham, DPAC, Birmingham Against the Cuts, Right to Work and Enable joined together for a lunchtime demonstration outside the building that ATOS use for the Work Capability Assessments (WCAs).
ATOS rent space on the first floor of Five Ways House to carry out WCAs in Birmingham. The first floor is not wheelchair accessible, so whenever someone who can’t use stairs comes to be assessed as to whether they are fit for work, they have to use extra space on the ground floor.
As part of today’s demonstration, activists got into body bags and lay in front of the building, to illustrate the claims that 5 people have committed suicide as a result of the reassessment process that ATOS handle. At our public meeting earlier this month, Sam spoke about the attacks being carried out on disabled people:

they are decimating everything. It’s not about whether I win or lose, it’s about whether I live or die

The ATOS assessments amount to a computer ticklist, and they ignore GPs advice in favour of what the computer says. These assessments are designed to strip benefits away from people.
40% of appeals at which the claimant represents themselves are succesful – this figure rises to 70% when someone is represented.
In addition to the £100m/year payments we make to ATOS, the appeals process costs an estimated £30m-£40m extra.

During the time of the appeal process, claimants do not get benefits, and these appeals have been known to last up to 18months.

The way in which disabled people are treated is disgraceful, and ATOS recently threatened to sue 3 websites which were critical of them, including Carer Watch which provides a vital support network and community for disabled people and carers. This threat resulted in all 3 websites being pulled by their ISPs as a precautionary measure. This is a standard thing for ISPs to do in the UK due to our libel laws and the expense of fighting cases.

Also, ATOS IT were recently handed the contract for the Paralympics, and the ATOS founder and former chair is now on the board of the Paralympic committee. This is a disgraceful insult to British disabled people who suffer so badly at the hands of this company.

You can still take part in today’s online action, or get involved with the fight against the Welfare Reform Bill. There will be future actions in Birmingham as part of national events against ATOS.

To see what else has happened around the UK, the Benefit Claimants Fight Back website is probably the best place to go.

DPAC have collected links from some of the demos here and here.
Additionally, 2 activists were arrested in Nottingham. One of the arrestees is a wheelchair user, and the police do not have a wheelchair accessible van, so they had to charge and bail him on the spot. The other activist was released later on that evening. Hopefully the charges will be dropped quickly.


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Kings Norton High School Academy threatened


There are going to be 2 public meetings in the next couple of weeks about the plans by ARK to turn Kings Norton High School into an academy.

According to the Anti Academies Alliance, ARK call themselves a ‘Philanthropic Cooperative’ but are an organisation run entirely by Hedge Fund managers. Hedge Funds are the finance companies which tipped the world into economic crisis in 2008. They make huge profits by gambling on market prices and they profit by driving down the value of bank shares. See the Anti Academies briefing, ‘Are Hedge Fund managers really the right people to be running our schools?’ at: http://www.antiacademies.org.uk.

[From NUT Briefing: http://www.teachers.org.uk/files/ARK-ACADEMIES-INFO.doc%5D

Details of the public meetings are:

Kings Norton High School, Shannon Road,Kings Norton,

Birmingham,West Midlands, B38 9DE

Thursday 6 October: 6pm – 7pm
Monday 10 October: 6pm – 7pm

A petition has been organised by parents and staff. Bob Whitehead, a local resident and activist with Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts wrote this article for the B31 Blog, which explains more about the campaign and why we should oppose academies.

No, for all the reasons [in this article], the Academy move is not a good idea. Parents should support their local school and keep it part of the local community and the community of schools in Birmingham. We are better off together than being hived off to private concerns. Harborne Hill School rejected ARK’s advances, so should Kings Norton High.

Hopefully, there will now be consultation and debate for the parents and community; something that will allow both sides of the argument to be put and a democratic decision taken afterwards.

There are too many reasons to simply reproduce them here – go and read the article to understand why academies in general and this one in particular should be opposed by parents, staff and students.

For more information or to get involved with this campaign contact Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts at stirchleyanticuts@gmail.com

to get more involved with campaigns against academies in Birmingham, speak to Alliance against Birmingham Academies, c/o Birmingham NASUWT, Ludgate Court, 57 Water Street, Birmingham B3 1EP.

Upcoming event for AABA:
Next City Council Governors Forum meeting Monday 10 October 6.30

AABA will be leafletting this as usual but if you can go in and make your points please do – prior booking is essential, they say. (Check their website.) AABA leafletting from 5.30.

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National Day of Action Against ATOS – Friday 30th Sept

My DLA was stolen

Photo by Lisy Babe on Flickr

Friday, September 30
Everywhere!
In Birmingham from 12noon-2pm. There will be a demonstration and leafleting outside of Five Ways House, Islington Row (by Five Ways train station). ATOS use part of this building to carry out their work assessments, but most of the building is used by DWP. We will also leaflet five ways train station, and may move into the city centre later if the people who are present feel that would be a better place to be.

Invite people to the Facebook event to let them know this is happening.

We have written previously about ATOS, before the previous week of action, so read why you should come on this protest in this post. Those of you who have attended our public meetings will have heard disabled people speak about the attacks this government are making on them, and the role ATOS plays within that. Anyone who heard Sam speak at our meeting earlier this month will know how important it is to support this event.
That is why we have teamed up with DPACand Enable (a University based disability campaigning group) to organise this demonstration.

Stop Atos mugging disabled people

Photo by Lisy Babe on Flickr - click photo for gallery

For some more information about ATOS which has occurred since my previous post, read this post from Benefit Claimants Fightback, which I am reproducing. There are actions happening all around the UK, so if you are reading this and want to do something, there might be something local to you – or you could join the online actionand prepare yourself for the next day of action.

 

Take Action Against Atos Origin and the Poverty Pimps on the 30th September 2011.

We aren’t going anywhere!

Click for the Facebook Event for the National Action

Atos Origin have £300 million contract with the Con-dem Government to continue carrying out ‘work capability assessments’.

It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. The real purpose is to strip benefits from as many people as possible.

This testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. GP’s are ignored in favour of decisions made by Atos Origin’s computer.

Plans announced for the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance have also revealed that this intrusive testing is likely to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.

To date around 40% of appeals against Atos Origin’s decisions have been successful. [DPAC say that up to 70% of appeals in which people are represented have been successful.]

Atos have now extended their harassment of sick and disabled by using legal threats to silence websites which have been critical of them

Organise and take action on the 30th September! Please list details in the comments below or email notowelfarecuts@yahoo.co.uk and we’ll try maintain a list here.

A list of Atos Origins locations can be found here

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Manchester for the Alternative

Following on from the Birmingham for the Alternative march at the Liberal Democrat conference, is Manchester for the Alternative, a march and rally at the Tory party conference in Manchester.

The demonstration takes place on Sunday 2nd October, and Right to Work and Unison are running coaches – other unions may also be running coaches, so if you are a member of a union, ask them if they are running coaches for this TUC demonstration for their members.

Call Right to Work on 07904 960 442 to book a space on their coach which leaves at 8.30am outside Carrs Lane church, opp Moor St station, £15 union funded / £10 waged / £5 unwaged.
Or you can book your seat on the transport online

If they are all booked, then email us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com

Full details of the TUC march are available on the Right to Work website. There are also plans to occupy Albert Square by a group called Occupy Manchester.

It is important that as many people as possible turn out to demonstrate for the alternative to this coalitions economic policies. Today more news has emerged that the UK will miss its deficit reduction target by £12bn, and that growth forecasts have been reduced again. As many people have argued, austerity and cuts will not solve our deficit problem, and will only serve to collapse our economy and increase unemployment.
Join us and tens of thousands of others on the streets of Manchester, on the 2nd October.

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Solidarity demo on Monday for Detained Banner Drop activist

Last Friday, to mark the opening of the Liberal Democrat conference, 3 activists did a banner drop from the bridge connecting the Hyatt Hotel with the ICC. The banner, which read “Traitors Not Welcome” referred to the decision of many Liberal Democrat MPs (including local MPs John Hemming and Lorely Burt) to break their pledge to vote against a rise in tuition fees, leading to the trebling of fees to £9,000.

All three activists were arrested, and held over the weekend. One of the activists has been held on remand, and has a further bail hearing on Monday, by which time he will have spent 10 days in prison.

Update: The case was thrown out of court after 10 minutes, before the jury was even sworn in as the prosecution revealed they had no evidence.

A defence and support campaign – Banner Drops Are Not A Crime – has been setup. They have a facebook page and twitter feed.

There will be a solidarity demonstration on Monday from 3pm, outside the Magistrate Court on Corporation Street. Click here for the Facebook event.

We urge everyone who can to attend this demonstration against the imprisonment – before trial – of a peaceful protester. This decision is the latest piece of political policing and judicial decision making, and must be opposed.

Update: Edd was released on bail on Monday. The solidarity demo was huge, around 80 people turning up, including members of Birmingham Against the Cuts. We could be heard in the court. You can see some photos on this Flickr set.
There will now be a campaign to get the charges dropped, and more generally against political policing.
However, Edd has been suspended from his elected position at the Guild of Students, pending an investigation that may see him sacked. Please sign this petition calling for his re-instatement.

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UNISON council workers strike

Unison Workers demonstrate outside ICC (c) Geoff Dexter-Sherborne Publications

UNISON members working for Birmingham City Council were on strike again today, due to changes being imposed on their contracts by the council, which will see pay cuts and changes to conditions that mean workers will be told to do any job on their pay grade, at any location in the city, working any hours. We have previously reported on the contract changes, that will see workers on £13,000/year losing as much as £4,000, today we will let the pictures tell the story, and given the amount of press that was around today, will provide links to other places reporting.

With thanks to Geoff Dexter (more photos), Chris H and Bob Whitehead for the photos – if you’ve been on a picket line this morning and have photos, please send them in to us by emailing BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com and we’ll add them in

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UNISON council strike tomorrow

UNISON workers strike on 30th June

Unison workers at Birmingham City Council will be on strike tomorrow, over pay cuts and changes to conditions. The strike has been timed to coincide with the final day of the Liberal Democrat conference, as we have a ConDem coalition locally that is forcing this contract onto the council workers.

Picket lines will run at workplaces from 7am-10am, followed by a static demonstration outside the ICC from 10:30am-11:30am, and a mass members meeting at 12noon.

If you can go to a council workplace and show your solidarity with striking workers it is sure to be appreciated.

Also happening tomorrow is a march about the potential closure of the Bull Ring Markets, assembling at the markets at 12:30 and marching to the ICC – more information on the meeting and the threat to this business and jobs is available on the Save Our Markets website.

These events will round off a week of protest at the Lib Dem conference, which began on Friday with a banner drop by NCAFC activists – for which one has been held in remand, and will be imprisoned for at least 10 days – and a demonstration with thousands of people on Sunday.

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