Tag Archives: protest
Around 2,000-3,000 people gathered on the streets on Birmingham last weekend to demonstrate for an alternative economic strategy to austerity, as the 2012 Tory conference started in the ICC.
Birmingham Against The Cuts joined Birmingham NUT to meet on the High Street to march up to join the TUC, who had moved the start location to Victoria Square. We waited until 11am to pick up anyone who didn’t know about the change, and then marched up the High Street and New Street to Victoria Square, joined on the way by students from the local universities, making this an impromptu education feeder march of around 100 people. This was very lively with chanting and although it was a Sunday morning there were a fair number of people around whose attention we definitely drew.
At Victoria Square the TUC had formed up but waited for us to arrive, and we joined the demonstration and marched off around the back streets and a little bit of Broad Street – as always kept away from the ICC itself by a 10ft high wall of steel, before coming back to Victoria Square for a rally where the Tory’s attack on our economy, welfare and rights was challenged and plans and ideas for an alternative put forward.
The demonstration was great, with at least 3 marching bands providing a stirring sound track, plenty of chanting and the sun shining down on us, but it must be said that the final route the TUC decided to take was not right. Any demonstration in Birmingham – especially on a Sunday – must go through the city centre where we can be seen and heard by lots of people and be able to effectively spread our message and ideas to the public.
With the TUC national demonstration on 20th October this was a nice warm up event. There are free coach seats available from Birmingham for unwaged and low paid workers, and seats on union coaches for non-unionised workers, so make sure that you are going along to show opposition and resistance to this government’s austerity agenda. The TUC rally was also followed by a Unite The Resistance public meeting in the council house.
With thanks to Hannah Goldman Hincks and Helen Purcell for photos, and Ben Hewitt for the video. Here are some more photos from the day:
This government attacks disabled people on benefits, cutting support and declaring as many as possible to be fit for work and not entitled to any support at all. They say they are doing this to help people back into work but at the same time they close Remploy, which was set up after world war two to provide supported employment for returning soldiers disabled in the war.
In the West Midlands the factories in Birmingham and Coventry supply the automotive industry and employ nearly 200 people between them, many of whom are disabled. These two factories are profitable but need investment of around £8-£10m over the next two years for stock and cashflow purposes if they are to move to a sustainable Community Interest Company model. The government though is looking to sell the factories (which really means the contracts they have) in April 2013. If this goes ahead it is obvious that a profit motivated company will buy the contracts, and then after 6 months when the TUPE’d disabled workers are no longer protected, they will either just close the factories and move production to cheaper locations elsewhere or gradually reduce the number of disabled employees who often need more support and have higher cost than other employees.
Remploy is committed to supporting disabled workers and has done so throughout it’s existence. Many people work there their whole lives. Stephen had come down from Leeds for the demonstration, he will be made redundant on the 16th of November after 27 years of work at Remploy, and says that he feels he has no chance of finding work.
You put news on and you just hear this joke government cutting police, fire service, NHS and no chance of anyone getting a job. I feel angry and let down because they said they wouldn’t take my right to work in Remploy away
85% of Remploy workers who were made redundant in a previous round of closures have not been able to find work, and if the West Midlands factories close, their chances do not look great. Earlier this year Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) expanded their Solihull plant, receiving 20,000 applications for 1,000 jobs. This has just been repeated at their Castle Bromwich site. For Remploy workers who have been in factories supplying the automotive industry, JLR would seem like an ideal place to find work, but with such incredible levels of competition, it’s hard for anyone to get an interview, let alone the job.
Instead they will be facing life on benefits with ATOS assessments no doubt declaring them fully fit for work (since hey they’ve all been working already) and placing them on unemployment benefit without the extra support the Work Related Activity Group for disability benefits should provide.
Thus their next experience of a workplace is likely to be unpaid, on forced workfare schemes.
Phil Davies, GMB national officer told us about the background behind these closures:
Sheltered workshops are allowed under EU procurement rules and can successfully keep disabled workers gainfully employed if supported by public contracts. Instead this government used RADAR, Mind, Mencap, Scope, RNID and Leonard Cheshire as “Trojan horses” to close the Remploy factories.
Radar characterised Remploy as some out of date solution with attempts to stigmatise it as a form of ghettoisation and linking it to old institutional forms. You could use the same argument against staging the Paralympic games.
These organisations started with an aspiration we all share where all disabled people are treated in an equal way in employment and that ideal state may lead to a completely different view of what support is required.
This is what happens when you make “the best” the enemy of “the good”. You start with resolutions that will not be achieved in the short run. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that ignoring real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of disabled charities – disabled charities – used as Trojan horses to enable redundancy notices for more than 2,700 disabled workers in 54 locations across the UK. The Tories knew what they were doing using these “useful idiots”.
You can support Remploy workers by signing their petition, and by coming to London on 20th October for the TUC national demonstration for A Future That Works – a slogan whose relevance is only too clear when thinking about Remploy.
We offer our solidarity to all Remploy workers and hope that the government reverses the closures and restores funding to Remploy to continue to support disabled people to work and not just sit at home hoping to find work.
Birmingham NUT and Birmingham Against the Cuts gathered on the High Street to ensure that anyone who hadn’t heard of the change of location would still be able to take part in the demo, and we were joined by students from BCU, Aston and the University of Birmingham on the way to Victoria Square which made this a little education feeder march of around a hundred people with “No Ifs! No Buts! No Education Cuts” ringing out along New Street.
We joined up with the TUC to march to Broad Street and back, as always the police had 10ft solid steel barriers erected to prevent anyone coming anywhere near the conference itself, with a rally held in Victoria Square.
You can see some photos from today on our Facebook and we’ll put a post up here next week when others have sent their photos in – don’t worry if you’re not on facebook you’ll see them all here soon 🙂
On now to October 20th demonstration in London – coaches are available from Birmingham and hope to confirm some good news at our meeting tomorrow about transport, so if you’re thinking of going down be sure to check back here tomorrow evening for details.
The meeting, titled ‘The fight against austerity’ will start at 2pm (or after the TUC event finishes).
Speakers include: Matt Wrack – general secretary FBU, Kevin Courtney – deputy general secretary NUT, Ian Hodson – president BFAWU, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Karen Reissmann – Unison NEC. All speakers are in their personal capacity.
2pm (or after TUC demo ends),
Birmingham Council House, off Victoria Square (TUC demo rally point), B1 1BB.
The council house is wheelchair accessible, though you need to speak to security to access the lift.
Thanks to J Robinson who commented with more detail on wheelchair access: “Hi Wheelchair users need to go to wooden gate located at the side of Council house just before the Art Gallery, the gate staff are friendly and will escort you to the meeting. JAE”
Please be aware that the assembly and rally points and time for the Tory conference demonstration have changed, it will now assemble from 10:30am in Victoria Square, with the march leaving at 11am around town and back to Victoria Square for a rally.
See you on Sunday!
With workfare schemes being expanded, and a new scheme being piloted in London, forcing school leavers to do a 3 month forced work placement as soon as they sign on, it is important that we show and build resistance to these schemes which force unemployed and disabled people into unsuitable work placements that threatens paid jobs and fails to help jobseekers into work.
You can read more about workfare and why we support the Boycott Workfare campaign in this post
Friday 7th September
12noon – 1pm
4 Norton Street, Hockley, B18 5RQ
Accessibility information: The nearest tram/metro stop is Soho (Benson Road). The metro is fully accessible with level access on every tram and at every station – for more accessibility information, please see the Network West Midlands website. The tram stop is about 0.6miles from the InTraining offices.
To check bus routes and for accessibility information for buses, please see the Network West Midlands site.
We are not aware of accessible or single use toilets near this location.
There are many actions taking place around the UK over the weekend – check what else is happening near you on the Boycott Workfare website.
Then on Saturday, join PCS Disabled workers in a demonstration about this government’s treatment of disabled workers as they close Remploy factories and cut DLA (with a new assessment process which ATOS will run in parts of the country – the same company that is running the hated WCA assessment process for ESA).
Disabled people claiming ESA who are put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) can be placed on the work programme and forced onto placements with companies and charities, just like anyone claiming JSA, and we ask people to join the PCS demonstration in solidarity with disabled workers who are losing their jobs in the cuts and recession and will no doubt find themselves on one of the schemes sooner or later.
Saturday 8th September
By Waterstones, corner of New Street and High Street
accessibility information: New Street and Moor Street train stations are the closest, around 500m from either station. Both stations are wheelchair accessible. The nearest bus stops are the ones on Moor Street Queensway. Please check the Network West Midlands website for details of bus routes.
Accessible toilets are available within 100m of Waterstones in the Bull Ring and Pavilions shopping centres.
Tuesday saw protests take place outside ATOS assessment centres around the UK, and today there was a big protest outside their HQ in London, which then moved to occupy the DWP offices in Westminster. All of this is in protest at the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which is supposed to test people who are claiming disability benefits to see if they are fit for work, but is being used to push people off disability benefits, with targets to find 89% of people fit for work.
This has led to many deaths, with 32 people a week dying after being found fit for work, and a host of tragic stories such as the Birmingham dad who died from his heart condition just three weeks after ATOS told him he was fit for work, or the cancer patient who died earlier this week just a few days after finding out her appeal was succesful.
The British Medical Association has condemned the WCA as being unfit for purpose, and called for the government to radically overhaul the process so that it takes into account medical advice from doctors.
The Unison offices are wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets. If you have any accessibility needs please contact us by email at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com and we will do our best to ensure that you can fully access our meeting.
The Unison Offices are on the 19th Floor, McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7LR. The nearest train station is Moor Street which is around 200m away, with New Street about half a mile from the offices. Many buses stop along Moor Street Queensway, near the McClaren Tower.This week, during the Paralympics,
Around 20 people demonstrated today outside the ATOS assessment centre in Birmingham as part of a week of action protesting the Working Capability Assessment (WCA) which is run by ATOS for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and is supposed to assess whether someone on disability benefits is fit for work, but has come under large amounts of criticism for failing to do that – and in the process punishing many disabled people by pushing them off disability benefits onto unemployment benefits and workfare.
The week of action is taking place during the Paralympics because ATOS are one of the main sponsors. Their core business is as an IT outsourcing company, but like Capita and Serco they have moved into taking all government outsourcing contracts. The contract to run the WCA is £100m/year – and we pay an additional £50m each year for the appeals process to correct the huge number of people that ATOS declare fit for work who go through the appeal process and have the decision reversed – a process that can take over a year.
Around 40% of appeal are successful – a figure that rises to 70% for people who have advocates or legal advice. Many people go to CAB for this advice, but Birmingham residents will soon find their access restricted, as funding cuts mean that CAB will probably be closing all but the city centre branch. At the same time, legal aid is being cut for welfare & benefit appeals, firmly closing the door on disabled people accessing legal advice.
In a recent Dispatches program, a doctor went undercover to record the training process for ATOS, and was told by his trainer that ESA (the new disability benefit brought in by New Labour in 2008 to replace Incapacity Benefit) and the WCA are designed to remove people from disability benefits, and that they expect ATOS to find 89% of people fit for work.
The human cost of this target is huge, with 32 people a week dying after being declared fit for work. Many disabled people have died from their illness shortly after being told they are fit for work, including a local man who died of his heart condition just 3 weeks after ATOS told him he was fit to work.
Talk to disabled people about ATOS and the one thing you will hear time and time again is fear. The fear strikes when the letter arrives calling you for assessment. This letter comes even if you have an incurable, unchanging or degenerative condition. The tests can happen annually, and some people even find themselves called for reassessment just weeks after they have had a successful appeal. Or it comes when you receive the ESA50 form to apply for the benefit, a big lump of paper, designed to scare and confuse, intended so that people will not complete it properly. If you’re filling one of these in, do get advice, especially if you have a variable condition.
The fear continues as you wait for the assessment, knowing that doctors advice will be ignored in favour of a ticklist that doesn’t take into account variable conditions, doesn’t mention work and will award no points for manual dexterity if you can use one finger on one hand. (zero points means there is no problem).
Fear stays there until you receive the letter telling you if you are fit for work or not. You might get put in the “support group” where it’s accepted that you aren’t going to be able to work. Or the “Work Related Activity Group” (WRAG), where they say you are fit for work of some kind with the right support (and if there were jobs available, or employers willing to take on someone who will need more time off than other people for medical appointments, or runs the risk of falling very ill very quickly.. but they don’t mention these barriers to employment of course). Or you get told you are fit for work and pushed off to JSA unemployment benefit.
And the fear doesn’t stop then – the wait for the reassessment for those in the support and WRAG groups, the loss of income and support for those kicked off to JSA, the impending prospect of the Work Programme and workfare for those found fit for work (either in the WRAG group or like anyone else unemployed and on JSA), and the sanctions regime that has seen tens of thousands of disabled people lose benefits for up to 6 months.
The fear needs to end, the WCA needs to be suspended now, and altered in a major way so that it is a fair assessment, and ATOS need to be removed from the contract.
You can still take part in the ATOS games and help to make this happen:
Tommorrow (Wed 29th), DPAC will deliver a coffin full of messages from you.
On Thursday 30th: Phone jam! Let’s flood Atos with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore! Click here for contact details
Then on Friday 31st, join DPAC in London where they’re teaming up with UK Uncut for the Closing ATOS ceremony, at ATOS HQ in Triton Square, London from 12:45.
For more information on these events, go to the DPAC website
Thanks for the photos from @BrumProtestor on Twitter.