Tag Archives: solidarity

PCS Budget Day Strike And Rally – 20th March

PCS 2013 budget day strike bannerThe civil service union, PCS, will be on strike on Wednesday 20th March, as the start of industrial action against cuts to pay, pensions and working conditions. There will be pickets and strike rallies across the region, with workers from Birmingham, Shropshire, Dudley, Worcester, Coventry and the surrounding area meeting at the Conservatiore in Birmingham for a lunchtime strike rally. The union has asked the government for talks on the key issues affecting the lives of civil servants and the services they are able to provide to the public, but the government has refused to negotiate.

Wednesday 20th March

In the morning: pickets at government and DWP offices, including job centres.

12:30pm Conservatoire (off Chamberlain Square). Directions

Wednesday 20th March is budget day 2013. It is the day that George Osborne will announce to no-ones surprise that he is continuing with the austerity agenda that is failing so badly. It is also going to be a day of 1%s. 1% rise in benefits and public sector pay. 1.4% average pay rise. One you won’t hear is that benefit fraud is just under 1%. 1% is the proportion of the population that will benefit from the cut in the highest rate of tax.

Of course not everything is around 1%. Growth, for instance, that’s way below, and looking like the economy has shrunk again in the last quarter. Or inflation, that’s way above 1%, as Britain’s average wages fall in real terms to 2003 levels. Or unemployment rate, over 9% in Birmingham, and falling only because people are moving to lower paid jobs, part time work, self-employment and of course forced unpaid workfare.

So PCS are taking action against one part of this – the attack on their pay, terms and conditions, and pensions. This should not be seen as an isolated action but as part of a collective response to austerity with different groups taking action in the way they see fit and in full solidarity with others fighting austerity.

We offer our solidarity to PCS members and encourage anyone who can to attend the rally to support the fight against austerity. PCS have been outspoken against welfare reforms, against pay freezes and pension cuts and have taken action they can and offered solidarity where no action has been possible. We say that an injury to one is an injury to all and that the 20th should be a day of mass resistance against austerity.

MArch 2013 PCS budget day strike rallies

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2012 Photo Review of the Year

austerity isnt working poster as imageIn the third year of this Condem coalition, austerity began to fail, with the budget deficit rising as we entered a double dip recession. The triple dip recession may already have started. The council here announced huge budget cuts spelling the “end of local government as we know it“, the attacks on our welfare system accelerated and the fightback continued with 200,000 marching in London on October 20th, thousands in Birmingham for the Tory conference, companies and charities withdrawing from workfare, Charles House saved from closure, Redundancies stopped at Connexions (at least for now) and more words (though still little action) on tax avoidance.

Click on the photo to read about the event or campaign.

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14th November Sees Strikes and Demonstrations Across Europe

14th November was a European wide day of action, called by the European Trades Union Congress. General strikes were held in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy, four of the countries worst affected by austerity, whilst solidarity demonstrations were held in towns and cities across the continent.

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Sacked Remploy Workers Demonstrate For Their Jobs

Disabled Remploy workers who are being made redundant as the government closes factories demonstrated outside the Tory party conference yesterday, calling on the government to stop the closure and privatisation of the Remploy Factory sites and to enter into meaningful discussion on the structure and future of Remploy and the whole of supported employment programme in Britain with a view to introducing a new vision based on public procurement work.

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.

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Demonstration at Workfare Profiteers InTraining on Friday

This weekend, Boycott Workfare are organising days of national action against workfare, and in Birmingham we’ll be taking part on Friday, with a lunchtime demonstration outside InTraining, one of the workfare profiteers, whose failure to help jobseekers led to one contacting us with his story, which you can read here.

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

InTraining
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.

ATOS Protest in BirminghamThen 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
12noon

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.

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Meeting on Sept 10th About Disabled People and Cuts Following Week of ATOS Protests

Banner at the Closing ATOS Ceremony in London

Banner at the Closing ATOS Ceremony in London

This week, during the Paralympics, Disabled People Against the Cuts and UK Uncut teamed up for a week of action, dubbed the ATOS games. The occasion was chosen because ATOS are one of the main sponsors of the Paralympics, an association which led the TeamGB Paralympians to hide their ATOS branded lanyards during the opening ceremony earlier this week.

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.

ATOS Protest in Birmingham

ATOS Protest in Birmingham

This week’s protests have attracted a large amount of media attention, and brought the issue to a wider audience. Join us on Monday 10th September, at 6:30pm at the Unison Offices for a meeting about cuts and disabled people, with Linda Burnip from DPAC speaking followed by a discussion.

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.

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Report and Photos From Today’s DPAC Demonstration at ATOS in Birmingham


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.

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