Public sector cuts
Reports on resistance to public sector cuts.
On Monday 2nd of March 2015, there were demonstrations in over 30 towns and cities around the UK (plus Toronto) against Maximus, the US based health insurance corporation that has taken over the contract from the French IT Company Atos to administer the Work Capability Assessment on behalf of the Department Of Work And Pensions. Atos announced its exit from the contract in early 2014 following an intense period of direct action against the company by groups such as Disabled People Against the Cuts.
The day of action was timed to coincide with the first working day of the new contract, with the spotlight turned on Maximus as well as the continued use of Work Capability Assessments and the life-threatening consequences of the ongoing government attacks on the sick and disabled.
In central London, to the chorus of "David Cameron is a W*****" (YouTube) activists from DPAC hit the streets, taking direct action to block traffic and at one stage bringing traffic to a standstill on Victoria Street in the shadow of Big Ben.
The demonstrations across the UK on the streets were complemented with an online Twitter campaign using the hashtags #Maximarse and #ScrapWCA, the latter trending for a number of hours. This gave the opportunity for those unable (including through sickness and disability) to make it to demonstrations to vent their anger and frustation around the Work Capability Assessment and at a government hell-bent on targeting the sick and disabled.
On the morning of Tuesday 26th February at 7:30am a group of Save Birmingham activists blockaded the entrance to the Council House underground car park. Later that day the annual budget meeting would take place where over £100m worth of cuts would be voted through. Save Birmingham, who had previously occupied the balcony of the Council House in the lead up to the budget meeting, along with other anti-cuts groups had called for a public blockade of the Council House at 11:00am to prevent the councillors from entering the building and voting through the cuts. When 11:00 arrived the car park blockaders were joined by hundreds of people from around Birmingham angry at the way the cuts are being undemocratically forced onto the city by the council. Soon all major entrances to the Council House had been blockaded just in time for the councillors to start arriving. Police tried to break up and force councillors through but eventually resorted to sneaking councillors into the Council House via secret doors in the Art Museum which is connected to the Council House. When the meeting finally got under-way activists twice managed to gain entry to the building to disrupt the meeting.
On the Newswire: Video of Blockaded: Birmingham Council House cuts meeting | Council House Blockaded | Photos from Birmingham Council House blockade | More photos of Council House Blockade | Council Have Voted Through £102m Cuts – Blockade & Demonstration Is Not The End | It’s Time To Shut The City Down – Day Of Action Against Council Cuts | Save Birmingham - Blockade the Council House
Previous features: Anti-Cuts protesters occupy Birmingham Council House
Links: Save Birmingham
At 1:30pm on Monday 4th February a group of 20 protesters from the Save Birmingham campaign walked into the Council House and occupied the balcony overlooking Victoria Square. The group had previously sent two letters to every councillor in Birmingham the last letter with over 200 signatures but with no response from the council. The Save Birmingham campaign has been steadily growing over the past few months, from rooms packed full of people opposed to the proposed cuts at several of the councils own consultations to a meeting of 175 people called by Communities Against the Cuts to organise a grass roots movement to fight back against the cuts. This led to the day of action on the 4th, the day the Labour Group who have a majority on the Council had a private meeting to agree on the £625m cuts to Birmingham which will be voted through at the budget meeting on 26th February. The day started with a small silent protest in Victoria Square outside the Council House, which was followed by the occupation of the Council House later in the afternoon. The balcony occupation lasted five hours and ended after more than 200 anti-cuts activists arrived in Victoria Square after marching from the Bullring.
On the Newswire: Save Birmingham March on the Council House - Don't let them vote through the cuts | Birmingham Council House Occupied | Photos from yesterdays Birmingham Council House Occupation and Demonstration | Birmingham Council House Balcony protest
Links: Save Birmingham
Saturday 8th December saw two separate days of action happening across the country. The first was the start of a week of action against the governments Workfare scheme. Workfare replaces jobs and undermines wages, this can be seen by Superdrug in Brighton not hiring any Christmas temps because they have free labour from the job centre. The Work Programme actually reduces your chances of finding a job, whilst the Mandatory Work Activity has had no effect on unemployment levels. Since 3rd December, disabled people can now be sent on time unlimited workfare placements. If they say no, their benefits will be cut to £28/week indefinitely. Unemployed people who refuse can have their job seekers allowance cut for up to 3 years.
The second day of action was against Starbucks tax avoidance. Starbucks have not paid any corporation tax in the past 3 years, and only £8.6m in the 14 years they’ve been trading in this country. Costa Coffee, whose turnover last year was £377m, just £21m less than Starbucks paid £15m in corporation tax.
On the newswire: Workfare’s Christmas Bonus For The Bosses | 100 people at #Sheffield @ukuncut #Starbucks Action | UK Uncut protest against tax dodgers Starbucks | Anti-Austerity Protest, Manchester Report and Pics | small determined workfare demo in holloway, london yesterday | islington starbucks ukuncut actions yesterday - report & pics 1 of 2 | islington starbucks ukuncut actions yesterday - report & pics 2 of 2 | Bath Anti-Starbucks Demo | Boycott Workfare day of action | Anti-Workfare Pickets Glasgow Report | Boycott Workfare Video | Starbucks action in Cambridge by UK Uncut
Previous Features: Workfare: Enslave us and we'll shut you down!
Saturday’s October 20th "March for a future that works" demonstration organised by the TUC saw over 150,000 out on the streets of London to protest the government's cuts and austerity measures. It's been almost a year since the TUC leadership tried to look like they were actively opposing the cuts and well over a year since the last big demo. The organisers sent out a somewhat mixed message by first calling for a general strike but then allowing Ed Miliband a platform to announce he'll carry on cutting where the Tories leave off if elected.
The demonstration also saw hundreds of black bloc and Boycott Workfare activists target Oxford Street stores that use workfare and tax avoidance, whilst DPAC activists successfully blockaded Park Lane.
On the Newswire: October 20: The view from Oxford Circus | #Oct20 150,000 on TUC demo PHOTOS | unions cuts march and london anti-workfare actions - pics & report | Oct20: we got work to do ... | March For A Future That Works
Previous Features: SchNEWS: One Strike and You're Out? | "You Can Shove Your Rubber Bullets Up Your Arse!": 'Total Policing' of N9 Demos | Anti-cuts protesters take over London | March 26th - All out against the cuts
The Conservative Party Conference came to Birmingham this week and was met with almost daily protests from angry plebs. But whilst the protests where going on outside, inside the class warfare was turned up a notch after it was announced that a further £10billion will be cut from welfare and that the government plan on scrapping workers rights in exchange for offering them "shares" by their employer. These rights such as protection from unlawful dismissal, flexible working time and maternity leave have been won by workers struggling hard over the past 100 years for a decent standard of living. To add salt to the wound, the announcement delivered by George Osborne came with the Orwellian Doublespeak "workers of the world unite". Well if that’s what he wants …
On the Newswire: Welcome The Tories To Birmingham | Lobby Tory Conference re Ballymurphy Massacre | Picket the Bigots - Tory Party Conference | Badger Cull Tory Conference | Hunt Saboteurs protest against badger cull at Tory Party Conference | Remploy Demonstration At Tory Party Conference – 8:30am Wednesday | Tory Conference Demo | Badger Cull Campaigners to Target Conservative Party Conference | Sacked Remploy Workers Demonstrate For Their Jobs
Birmingham Tenants & Homeless Action Group have occupied an abandoned council house with the intention of handing it over to a homeless person. They've contacted the council and demanded that they put the property back into use as low cost social housing and then do the same with the other nearly 12,000 empty properties around the city. Otherwise they have said that despite changes to the law on squatting they will continue with occupations of the other empty properties with the intention of handing them over to the homeless. With 11,924 empty properties, the highest rate of homelessness in the country and an estimate by city planners that Birmingham is currently short of 11,000 affordable homes, putting the abandoned houses back into use is the only logical step
Previous Features: Birmingham's Homeless Crises
On the newswire: Tenants & Homeless seize abandoned council house | Birmingham Tenants & Homeless Action Group - What we are doing | Squatting sleepover! Homeless but not helpless! | Police arresting homeless in Birmingham | First eviction protest for B.E.R.N | VIDEO Birmingham Eviction Resistance Network first eviction protest | Birmingham Eviction Resistance Network meeting | Food not Bombs every Sunday at Holloway Circus | VIDEO FNB in Victoria Square
Update 19/8/12: Police arresting homeless in Birmingham
On the Newswire: Brum FnB at the Birmingham Social Centre | First eviction protest for B.E.R.N | BERN BABY BERN fundraiser for Birmingham Eviction Resistance Network | Birmingham Eviction Resistance Network meeting | Food is a right not a privilege – statement of solidarity | Food not Bombs every Sunday at Holloway Circus | Birmingham Food Not Bombs is back
Campaigners in the UK and Sweden have taken various actions against G4S over the last month. Meanwhile, various discussions and meetings are taking place to coordinate efforts aimed at forcing the multinational security giant to halt its “unlawful and criminal activities”, as well as to put pressure on public authorities to withdraw from and not award new contracts to the notorious company.
Update (20/05/12): After a month, Occupy Brookes decided to pack up. The camp's demands were almost entirely ignored by management but many people nevertheless felt it was a valuable experience, building links, raising awareness, and establishing a precedent for action that can be taken further in the future.
Since Wednesday 18th April, a group of Oxford Brookes students and supporters have been camping in front of Gipsy Lane campus to demand free education for all, and more specifically and immediately, that the University switch from fee waivers to bursaries.
The camp has now survived over two weeks of extremely wet weather, hosted various workshops and discussions, and received lots of verbal support and sympathy. A letter containing 3 basic demands was sent to the authorities early on, but there has been no substantial response from them, and the group's next steps have yet to be decided.
Anyone supportive or curious is very welcome to come visit or stay, and upcoming workshops and meetings are listed on the blog.