March 31st day of action against workfare (UK)

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 26 2012 20:51
March 31st day of action against workfare (UK)

15  18 21 events and counting!

March 31st is a national day of action against workfare. This ties in with the international days of action called by the International Workers Association (IWA) - which includes a general strike in Spain on March 29th - and the M31 European Day of Action Against Capitalism

what is workfare? | resources | workfare factsheets

In the UK, The Solidarity Federation has called for March 31st to be focussed on direct action against workfare. And not just for a day, but as part of a concerted campaign to put an end to unpaid work. This is in support of the ongoing Boycott Workfare campaign, and is being organised in conjunction with numerous other groups and organisations. Confirmed events so far (let us know in the comments if we've missed any events or supporting groups!):

  • Bournemouth (Solent SF, Bournemouth Uncut, Wessex Solidarity, Dorset IWW, Surrey / Hants Afed, BPACC, Portsmouth Anarchists) 
  • Brighton (Brighton SF and Brighton Benefits Campaign)
  • Bristol (Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance, Bristol SF, Right to Work, Bristol AFed, Youth Fight For Jobs & IWW)
  • Edinburgh (Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Edinburgh AF)
  • Glasgow  (Solfed, Glasgow AF and the Crutch Collective)
  • Halifax (NOTE: Friday 30th - West Yorks SF)
  • Hastings (Brighton SF, Hastings Anarchists)
  • Inverness (Highland Anarchists)
  • Kilburn (North London SF, London AF)
  • Lewisham (South London SF, London AF)
  • Lincoln (Lincoln Underground Collective, Boycott Workfare)
  • Liverpool (Liverpool SF, Liverpool Uncut)
  • Manchester (Manchester SF - details tbc)
  • Newcastle (West Yorks SF, comrades in the North East)
  • Northampton (Northampton SF)
  • Stroud (from 10am, Stroud Against the Cuts)
  • Swindon (Swindon Anarchists, Boycott Workfare)
  • Truro 10am Lemon Quay Weatherspoons (Cornwall Anti Cuts Alliance)
  • Wakefield (West Yorks SF + Scottish Republican Socialist Movement)
  • York (York Welfare Campaign)

A general anti-workfare leaflet is available as a pdf and an editable MS Word file for other groups to edit. Feel free to replace SF contact details with yours and/or modify the text.

And don't forget: Monday April 2nd, protest at CWU HQ called by rank-and-file postal workers and Boycott Workfare over the CWU's apparent support for workfare.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Mar 27 2012 17:27

Updated with Glasgow, Inverness and Newcastle... 18 and counting!

wojtek
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Mar 29 2012 03:55

What has the reception been like at previous actions? My mates were talking about them the other day, they disagreed with workfare though not enough to boycott the shops and proceeded to take the piss out of the SWP for protesting. I kept schtum and changed the subject.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 29 2012 06:19

Last time out it was inundated by opportunist Trots, who promptly set up a stall and set about trying to sell Socialist Worker to people. But once we got them to move we were able to turn a lot of people away. We then sent about 8 people off to simultaneously picket another store and it was completely dead as a result of the picket. So I think it can be quite effective when you're not just paper selling, chanting innanely or shouting at people they're "idiots" through a megaphone at point blank range, but actually talking to people and trying to turn them away. In that sense, the criticism of the Trots is that they're just jumping on a bandwagon for self-promotion to the extent of making actions ineffective (at least in my experience).

Edit: there was also an amazing auto-Trot moment when the guy with the megaphone started going off on one about Tesco having 'blood on their hands'.

In terms of talking to people away from pickets i've had similar reactions. People think it's shit, but think the Trots are idiots. I don't think a generalised boycott makes sense, but more turning people away on the day coupled with disruptive action/damaging their brand image.

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cantdocartwheels
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Mar 29 2012 07:56
wojtek wrote:
What has the reception been like at previous actions?

We got a pretty positive reaction off most people, to the extent that some big issue sellers wanted to hand out our leaflets for us. A few people disagreed, a lot of them being self employed (eg a market trader) and i can see that sort of thing being a little predictable at times, its not exactly a non-contentious issue and some people already have set opinions on the subject of the benefits system.

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Mar 29 2012 12:20

The reaction in York was generally pretty positive, tho with the odd bit of aggro here and there. Found a lot more people than expected were willing to stop and talk about it, tho often with a lot of misconceptions (that it's voluntary, that it succeeds in getting people into work, that people are paid for it, etc.)

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Mar 29 2012 17:25

Some of SF's unwaged workers have put together a 16-page guide to workfare. It's pretty quick to read through and quite handy to familiarise yourself with the different schemes ahead of conversations on pickets etc, especially as a lot of the companies are claiming it's voluntary/no sanctions etc.

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Apr 3 2012 15:34

Kilburn Anti-Workfare picket a success

Last Saturday, the North London Solidarity Federation was joined by members of the Industrial Workers of the World and Boycott Workfare for a mid-day picket of the Holland and Barrett in Kilburn, North West London.

Picketers numbered over twenty in total and came prepared with flags, hi-vis jackets, and various banners decrying the exploitative nature of the government's various workfare schemes. Nearly 1000 leaflets were handed out over the course of the action and throughout the picket prospective customers were persuaded to do their shopping elsewhere.

Public response was overwhelmingly positive. One member of the public even stopped by for half and hour to help us do some leafleting. Others took the opportunity to go into the store and express their dissatisfaction directly to the Holland and Barrett manager on duty at the time.

With SF calling pickets at over twenty Holland and Barrett shops all around the country, our message to Holland and Barrett is simple: this is just the start. Pull out of the workfare scheme or expect further disruption. As Boycott Workfare says, “If you exploit us, we will shut you down".

See link for pics:

http://solfed.org.uk/?q=north-london/kilburn-anti-workfare-picket-a-success

Caiman del Barrio
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Apr 3 2012 18:46

Johnny Void's article, which includes pictures of SLSF and friends' picket of Catford Holland & Belgium... http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/holland-barrett-face-angry-pickets-across-the-uk/

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plasmatelly
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Apr 3 2012 19:00

Here's a shot of the Newcastle action - a good day considering we were in the Bigg Market with Fred Flintstone stag parties!

Harrison
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Apr 3 2012 23:10
Joseph Kay wrote:
there was also an amazing auto-Trot moment

Is that a new verb then?

NLSF picket was great fun and had a great turnout with hi-vis jackets, flags and banners as well, which definitely helped make it look visible and strong.

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Apr 4 2012 09:51
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Johnny Void's article, which includes pictures of SLSF and friends' picket of Catford Holland & Belgium... http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/holland-barrett-face-angry-pickets-across-the-uk/

We had a bit of fun & games with the cops/security at the beginning of the day. We'd announced "outside Sainsbury's in Lewisham shopping centre" as the meeting point, and received an email from the shopping centre security company warning us that the centre is private property, so that if we did a protest in the shopping centre we'd be "asked to leave."

I arrived early, and did a quick recce around the place. More security than usual, and two cops on patrol inside the shopping centre who I later saw chatting to security. By 1pm, there were five cops around Sainsbury's (two shirt-sleeves, two PCSOs and one full uniform stabvest cop), loads of security and some obvious "plain clothes". (Why do cops/security think that wearing a brightly-coloured fleece = plain clothes, btw?).

It became clear that if we hit the H&B in the shopping centre, our event would last about a minute, so we had a quick meeting in the shopping centre cafe and decided to head up the road to Catford. Generally speaking, the picket was well-received by passers-by and we gave out almost all the leaflets we had. This included giving bundles of leaflets to people who wanted to give them out themselves which is always a good sign.

We had a couple of exchanges with disgruntled passers-by, one of whom wanted to know "How many of you actually live in the Borough?", met with a chorus of "I do!" And another one who said the reason her pension was so low was because of Polish immigrants.

All in all, I reckon we had 20-odd people out picketing and leafletting, so a decent show. The one downside was that there was a burst water main directly outside Catford H&B, which -- coupled with the cold weather -- meant we were all dying for a piss throughout the whole thing. sad

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Apr 4 2012 16:32

Pulling a few of these reports and leaflets together:
http://www.afed.org.uk/blog/workplace/296-anti-workfare-coordinated-actions-on-31st-march-2012-reports.html

Really good to see this happening again, recalling anti-Project Work/New Deal activity in the 1990s, as recounted here:
http://www.afed.org.uk/news-and-events/145-end-of-the-social-wage-radical-responses-to-the-welfare-reform-bill.html

Can expect more AF involvement as time goes on.

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Joseph Kay
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Apr 6 2012 17:54

Good stuff little_brother. There should be a proposal for escalation circulated to SF/AF/other participating groups soon.

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May 15 2012 22:12

Just to say that this is still going and they'll be a picket in London soon, email SLSF if you're interested in attending:

southlondonsf (a) solfed.org.uk

EDIT: North London now, too

nelsf (a) solfed.org.uk

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Joseph Kay
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May 15 2012 16:34

Yeah, there was also a picket in Brighton last Saturday and another in Hove this Saturday (19th), with the national conference against workfare the Saturday after that (26th; also in Brighton).