Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Right to Work Conference Report.

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Guest Post by “Unemployed from Ipswich” who attended the conference.

Right to Work

A Conference for Resistance and Solidarity

Central Hall, Oldham Street, 30th January 2010

Workshop 10:  The Welfare Reform agenda, fighting for our rights.

Chairman: James EadonChesterfield Trades Council President.

Delegates were invited to contribute experiences to identify the issues that needed tackling and therefore, help shape future action.  Though it quickly became clear that not only was there a huge ignorance of rights, particularly by minority groups, but there is an erosion of the funding to monitor rights.

Here are selected contributions:

John Bradley of Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centre.

New Labour has gone further than any previous Conservative government in its harshness of policy on unemployed people.   The majority of whom, the system treats as potential fraudsters.   No talk of wealth redistribution.  The minimum wage coupled with Tax credits has amounted to a huge subsidy to employers.

The TUC must be central in organising the 40 unemployed centres in an organised fight-back.

Scott of Cambridge Unemployed Union.

Example or a group already getting organised: defendwelfare.org

PCS member from Manchester working in the call centre for crisis loans

Money is running out at the end of the month, meaning that requests for essential items have to be refused.  The replacement with a call centre service, has led to deterioration in ‘customer’ service – coupled with staff cut-backs led to slow resolutions.

GP from East London

Ethnic minorities cannot deal with call centres because of language barrier.  Schemes turning into internships that were leading to depression among the poor.

Rights Worker from Midlands

Marginalisation through debt, Continuous amendments in law created a complexity, both in rights of individual and of the state.  Partial solution was in an understanding of the “newspeak” and that had a part to play in informing the disadvantaged.

Case study: Mick from Sheffield

His overpayment, despite his informing and resulting reassurance that there was no overpayment, wisely retained the overpayment because following a change of opinion and resulting request to return the over-payment, was able to do so.

Rachel, Welfare Rights Worker from South London

Sanctions were part of the erosion of the welfare safety net.  What has happened to the minimum amount to live on?  Her view that the poverty of people in work was meeting the same level as those on benefit.  Little debate on the matter.

ESA appeals ¾ not passing their appeals.  Lifetime DLA awards being removed leading to more appeals at which, because of the Legal Services Commission system of fixed fee, personal representation at appeals was unfunded.  Appeal tribunals taking place on 2nd or 3rd story rooms without lifts.

My contribution was to stress the need to monitor Flexible New Deal because the old scheme had been nothing more than 13 week detention for claimants and if that was tolerated, what incentive is there to make FND helpful in the present climate?  I reported the London TUC’s “unhappy with certain aspects (ND)”, but would not oppose ND stance.

Cats & Dogs aka Odds & Ends

10% cut in funding to advice centres while competition between private (A4E) and voluntary sector advisors was favouring the business organisations.

 Privatisation had returned welfare to the Poor Laws of past times.  That training had been neglected.  What training was available was too expensive.

The near-future action that was suggested included the assembling of all the campaigning groups.  To inform claimants of their rights and a  Right to Work  march at the party conferences.

Other observations There was an expectancy of about 700 people at the conference, but the estimate was 900 because the closing session was full to the rafters – delegates having to listen from the corridor.  There was much dismay with UNISON who had to be lent upon to represent cleaners in London and their intolerance of perceived factions within the union.

Logistics: left Ipswich 6.40am arrived Manchester 12.20am.  Parked beside The Britannia Hotel.



Written by Andrew Coates

February 3, 2010 at 10:02 am

One Response

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