Campaigners united today Friday 9 August to take action against the Personal Independent Payment (PIPs) test regime of the Department for work and pensions (DWP). The target for action was the SALUS office, 348-382 Argyle Street. An occupation took place with younger and older citizens closing down the centre for over an hour. Speeches, chants and placards were heard and seen by interested passers-by. The message was given clear that cuts to benefits, punishing the sick and disabled, would be fought no matter who was implementing or collaborating with them.
Between April 2013 – September 2017 the most severely sick and disabled people in Britain, currently claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), will undergo assessments for the PIPs which is replacing it. The Government’s aim is to cut DLA costs for working age claimants by 20% with an estimated half a million disabled people losing their entitlement to key services and support.
The private multinational Atos have been awarded contracts of £400mn to carry out these PIPs assessments (£238mn of this for testing people in Scotland, Northwest and Northeast England). Since 2007 Atos have been hired by the Labour and ConDem Governments for the purpose of finding incapacity benefit claimants fit for work regardless of their physical or mental condition. Atos have served as a useful distraction for the fact that it is a government agency, the DWP, which structures the dehumanising and degrading computer tests claimants’ face. Now it is the turn of the private sector to hide behind the public sector. Fearing greater opposition and notoriety Atos have sub contracted SALUS, a body of NHS Lanarkshire, for £22mn, to implement the PIPs assessments in Scotland.
Whilst the announcement by Atos is a victory for campaigners who have succeeded in blackening their name the sick and disabled will continue to suffer the same DWP structured tests and cuts but this time under a cloak of NHS respectability.
GLASGOW AGAINST ATOS IS TAKING ACTION TO OPPOSE ALL CUTS!
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Next campaign meeting
Tuesday 20 August, 7-9pm
Unite Union Building,
John Smith House,
145/165 West Regent Street,
Support the Glasgow Against Atos 2 Defence Campaign
Court protest at trial,
Tuesday 1 October, 9-10am
Glasgow Sheriff Court
On Saturday 3 August Glasgow Against Atos took their call for Glasgow City Council to Hang Out Their Dirty Laundry to the old washing lines of Glasgow Green. People from across Glasgow attended the event to add to the sheets and clothes displaying messages which detailed the dirty tricks and acts of Glasgow’s Labour Council. The struggles against Council corruption, implementation of cuts to public services and the injustices committed by 2014 Commonwealth Games organisers were just some of the issues highlighted.
Political singer/songwriter Citizen Smart entertained everyone with music before anyone who wanted to speak on the mic was invited to. A number of people from campaigns across the city stepped forward. Speakers included Margaret Jaconelli who was evicted from her home in Dalmarnock for the building of a Commonwealth Games Athletes village and one of the Glasgow Against Atos 2, Dominic O’Hara, who face trial on 1 October for using a megaphone on a GAA protest. Others took to the mic to air their feelings about Glasgow’s council and the cutbacks they are implementing. The Department of work and pensions were also shamed for cutting the welfare benefits of the sick ad disabled through the back door – by hiring the private multinational Atos. GAA supporters concluded that the Labour Party are no friends of the working class.
GAA is proud to note that the audience included two famous Glasgow writers James Kelman and Alasdair Gray who came to lend their support. We will continue action and call for united work to expose and oppose those who ride in affluence on the backs of our communities.
Resistance comes in all different forms. For people who aren’t able to make it to our meetings or protests there are other ways you can help build the campaign. Send us your articles on news developments about the cuts (particularly those affecting the sick and disabled) or letters of your personal experiences of the Work Capability or Personal Independence Payment assessments. Include in your email if your happy for them to be published on our blog spot. Please send these to email@example.com
Norman Dickson has been sending us his poems to help spirit the fight back. Three of these are included below.
GAA calls for resistance to the cuts on all fronts!
MURDER BY SIGNATURE ( ATOS AND THE BEDROOM TAX ) ITS CALLED MURDER BY SIGNATURE, A COWARDS FARAWAY DECREE, HIDDEN IN AN OFFICE SOMEWHERE, NEVER TO WITNESS OR SEE. THE MISERY, THE DYING.. THE GRIEF AND THE PAIN, THE RELATIVES LIVES RUINED, A WELFARE STATISTIC ERASED. GENOCIDE ( 21st Century Style ) (IAN DUNCAN SMITH ) HE SHOWS ALL SIGNS OF A PSYCHOPATH. AS HE VILIFIES THE ILL. THOSE ON JOBSEEKERS ALLOWANCE.. AND ALMOST EVERY OTHER THING. A FAILED LEADER AND POLITICIAN, DEFINITELY A FAILURE AS A MAN. HIS NAZI LIKE POLICIES.. DESIGNED ONLY TO KILL. THERE SHOULD BE AN EPITAPH.. BUILT VERY HIGH, WITH NAMES OF THE DEAD AND DYING. TILL IT REACHES THE SKY. OVER 10,000 AT LAST COUNT. AND ITS ONLY JUST BEGUN. EACH AND EVERY POLITICIAN.. THE QUESTION THEY SHUN. ITS THE 21ST CENTURY AND ONLY 68 YEARS ON. FROM BELSON AND AUSWITCH.. BUT GENOCIDE LIVES ON. ITS HERE IN THE UK. HIDDEN BEHIND LIES. SPUN BY EVIL PEOPLE. AS ANOTHER ONE DIES. ITS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.. WILL THE HAGUE TURN AWAY ? OR WILL THE COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS.. BE BUSY THAT DAY ? I AM HUMAN My legs may not work. But my pain is real. It's not the money, Its my dignity, That with hatred, They steal. Im a person. Not a number. My family they care, Love it is real. Not your accountants, Cold stare. You've destroyed the soul. Of 10,000 now dead, But those left behind.. I will tell you its said, We will not lay down, Our legacy will fight, In 2015 you'll be ousted You shite. The future will speak.. In dignified refrain, We are people not numbers, The determination remains, So hang your head parliament, Each and every mp, You turned away and let horror decree, Where were you GPs, When we needed you there, Deny genocide ...I ask if you dare.
On the 26 July Glasgow Against Atos held another successful picket outside the Atos testing centre on Cadogan street. Individual campaigners and members of supporting campaigns and groups took part; Citizens United Against The Cuts, Black Triangle, anarchists, Dundee Against Atos and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! With a strong turn-out of around 30 people, armed with placards and banners, we made sure that both G4S security guards and the police knew that we would stand our ground and not be deterred by their presence.
The picket was taken as an opportunity to give remembrance to the tragic death of Elenore Tatton who died from a brain tumour on 21 April 2013 a month and a half after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos assessors. This is just one of many similar cases, as the government ruthlessly plunders thousands of people into desperate, and often fatal, situations. In order to symbolise the tragedy of these deaths campaigners wore black arm-bands and had made a make-shift alter with candles.
GAA supporters made a call for passers-by to join our campaign and put an end to this violent destruction of the sick and disabled. Powerful accounts were shared on the megaphone by those personally undergoing Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) speaking of the mental and physical stress caused by them. Campaigners also took to the megaphone to highlight that Atos are ‘unfit’ to sponsor the city’s 2014 Commonwealth Games due to their degrading and punitive practices. Finally recent suggestions by the Minister of welfare reform and mainstream media that Atos should be replaced by another profit making company or that the WCA should be replaced by another assessment were exposed as a sham by campaigners. The war on welfare being waged by the upper classes will continue. We call for Atos and the WCA to be scrapped as part of opposing the war on welfare. We will not accept punishment of the sick and disabled under a different name! The working class and poor are the only people that can bring this welfare warfare to an end by fighting back.
It must be noted that militant organisation against the cuts has evidently caused a problem for Glasgow City Council in the run-up to the Games as Strathclyde Police have attempted to reinforce their power and crush any form of resistance. This obvious tactic led to the arrests of two GAA members who stood trial on 25 July with trumped up charges gained during a Glasgow Against Atos protest. Supporters from the Glasgow Defence Campaign and GAA joined the two arrested campaigners, ‘The Glasgow Against Atos 2’, at the Sherriff Court to oppose the authorities’ use of political policing. Their trial was postponed and they will stand trial again on 1 October. During yesterday’s picket outside the Atos test centre a call was put out on the megaphone to support those facing trial and to point out the importance of joining in solidarity to build an effective defence campaign to challenge such blatant police harassment and repression of anti cuts protest. GAA will defend its right to protest and join with others to oppose attempts to criminalise wider opposition to the cuts!
Finally a member of Dundee Against Atos (DAA) informed campaigners of the work that he has been doing along with others in Dundee. It was urged that GAA members and anyone else support DAA in trying to build a strong and effective campaign which will help put an end to these vicious attacks on the working-class. DAA protest on the first Friday of every month so the next protest will be Friday 2 August, 2-4pm, Greenmarket. Anyone interested or needing help to through through from Glasgow should contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07734348065
Although today’s picket was a success it is clear that effective resistance will only be proved if we join together in solidarity and unite against the Department for work and pensions (DWP) and ATOS!
Join GAA At Our Next Protest
Glasgow City Council Hang Out Your Dirty Laundry!
Saturday 3 August, assemble 11am
Outside Peoples Palace, Glasgow Green.
Bring ‘dirty laundry’ (sheets, t shirts, big underpants, anything you can paint a message on and bring it down) to hang out on the day for all of Glasgow to see!
Glasgow Against ATOS reproduces the following report from the Glasgow Games Monitor 2014 site (original report appears here)
Wednesday 26th June, Glasgow Against Atos occupied the Emirates Arena, Commonwealth Games venue, on London Road. The group were protesting against the French IT firm Atos sponsoring the games. The protestors, who occupied the Chris Hoy velodrome for well over an hour, argued that Atos are “unfit” to sponsor the games due to their punitive role in degrading ‘work capability assessments’ for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Atos is the private, profit-driven parent company of Atos Healthcare. Atos Healthcare provides ‘independent’ data for the making of a decision on an individual’s right to receive disability benefits. To provide this data Atos introduced the controversial target-driven assessment scheme which has received trenchant criticism from Atos victims, disabled groups, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Child Poverty Action Group, and even by the Atos doctors who conduct the assessments.
According to the UK Government’s own figures, 1,100 people have died after being put into the work-related activity group and 1,600 people have died before their assessment was complete. The accuracy of these statistics is difficult to gauge, but the assessments carried out by Atos are clearly mentally and physically harmful and have certainly contributed towards the deaths of many vulnerable people. The group’s position is clear: Atos kills. Atos are “unfit” to sponsor the games, and should be dropped immediately.
Glasgow Games Monitor attended the protest and spoke to many of those present. There was deep anger about the use of Atos as a sponsor fro the Games. Paul McKenna argued that Atos were part of the “wholesale destruction of the welfare state”:
“They are attacking disabled and vulnerable people and overseeing the destruction of people’s lives. The Commonwealth Games should stop the contract with Atos”.
The enormous stress of the assessment process was described by some occupiers in the velodrome. Bernadette Greeves talked about her personal experience after an accident at work in 2004 left her with metalwork in her neck and nerve damage in her arm:
“They’ve tried to put me through things that I can’t do. It’s quite degrading. And I was up again last summer and this time it was worse because of Atos. The people before were a wee bit more sympathetic towards you and your illness but this time it was just more about putting things on to the computer. They don’t really want to look at you or know you. It’s very degrading and I think its wrong that they are taking people that are terminally ill and sick up to this place and trying to get them off benefits”.
The assessments causes an immense amount of stress for people as their benefits are at a severe risk. Debbie from Maryhill explained her own stressful experience of Atos over the last four years as being like “a hamster in a cage going round and round for years”. In a recent Guardian article GP Greg Wood has said that the Atos assessment process is not appropriate for its purpose as the assessment “leans towards finding reasons not to award points“. One campaigner at the velodrome said that Atos assessments were like “the new Lourdes” as long-term illnesses and disabilities “magically disappeared” after assessment.
As well as sponsoring the Games, Atos will provide the IT accreditation systems that will be used to accredit all participants, and the Games Information System that will relay results, information and schedules to media and officials. The will also provide the volunteer systems to facilitate the recruitment and management of 15,000 volunteers.
Given that 36.8% of the local working population of Calton claims benefits, and 30.6% in Shettleston (www.sns.gov.uk), the fact that 15,000 people will give their labour for free for up to 11 days in the East end is a travesty.
The Atos role in Games volunteering is only the other side of their assessments procedure. The Atos assessments are effectively about making people work for free or placing them in a situation of ‘working poverty’. When “the norm” in Glasgow is becoming a “low wage and casualised work environment” or an “unregulated and degraded training system”, what else could it be?
The assessments have proven to be intrusive and inappropriate for the often vulnerable groups who are being assessed. Many of these stories are widely available. Atos are currently processing nearly 11,000 benefit applicants a week and are clearly exploiting an essential branch of the welfare state for profit.
Atos are unfit to be sponsors of the Commonwealth Games because ATOS KILLS. The decision to let ATOS become a major sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow has sparked great anger due to the shocking and degrading assessment processes adopted by Atos healthcare. Yesterday’s occupation highlights that the sponsorship is a disgrace. Atos must be dropped as a sponsor of the Games, or the Games ‘legacy’ will end up being a further attack on the vulnerable and disabled.
Glasgow Against ATOS have been campaigning against the Government hired contract killers ATOS for almost two years. ATOS are the miracle workers whose magic computer “assessments” manage to find chronically sick, disabled and dying claimants fit for work.
Their quack assessments have contributed directly and indirectly to the deaths of thousands of people.
We fight back against their cull of the working class, with direct action, occupations, pickets and raising public awareness.
Many of the people affected by ATOS are also affected by the Bedroom Tax, and all working class people are victims of the Government’s so-called austerity measures – in reality a series of brutal attacks on the poorest in society.
So Glasgow Against ATOS are also against the Bedroom Tax, and for that matter all attacks on working people’s lives.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can appeal to the politicians sense of reason or fairness- they don’t have any, – they would rather you went off and died!
This fight can only be won by united working class direct action, not by appealing to politicians.
So become involved in the fight against the Bedroom Tax.
Become involved in the fight against ATOS
Join the Fightback and say, “Enough is enough”- and together, We Will Win!
Visit us on Facebook at Glasgow Against ATOS.
The Cull of the Working Class.
As we all know by now, the dreaded Bedroom Tax has arrived. This of course is the latest of a long list of attacks on working class people. We must be careful not to view these attacks in isolation – they constitute a coordinated assault on working class people particularly the most vulnerable members of society; the sick and disabled.
It has been estimated that eight in ten people affected by the Bedroom Tax are disabled. Many of those have already been through a work capability assessment conducted by the French firm Atos, on behalf of the Department of Works and Pensions, which has resulted in them losing their benefits.
Michael Meacher M.P. led a commons debate on the 17th. January this year in which he criticised almost every aspect of Atos’s operations including the thousands of people who have died after being declared fit for work. You can see his speech on You Tube.
Atos has been widely and repeatedly criticised by the British Medical Association, and is subject to constant lobbying by disabled groups throughout the country.
This callous treatment of the sick and disabled goes hand in hand with the emergence of a new and sinister trend of political thought has developed over the term of the present Government, which sees welfare benefit claimants and those at the very bottom of society as lazy, dishonest stupid scroungers who are less than human.
The Government’s sustained attacks on the weakest in society are reminiscent of the Nazis treatment of some of their own citizens prior to the beginning of the Second World War when they “assessed” the sick and disabled to see if they were physically and mentally fit to live.
Those human beings whom they termed Lebensunwertes Leban-“life unworthy of life”, and “useless eaters” were callously exterminated. The German authorities managed to persuade the population at large through written and pictorial propaganda, that this extermination was morally acceptable and that the sick and disabled were a drain on the economy. They managed to do this by “dehumanising” people.
An article in The Guardian on 11May 2013, reported on research carried out at the University of Louvain by Jacque-Philippe Leyens which suggests that low status groups including the poor, homeless people, drug addicts and welfare claimants are seen by others as less than “fully human”.
Leyens has coined the term “infrahumanisation”- the infra for “below”, as in below or less than fully human to describe this development of everyday dehumanisation.
As Robert de Vries in the Guardian article puts it, “The Government’s cuts to welfare benefits are causing real harm to a lot of innocent people, nevertheless, remarkable numbers seem to be willing to support them”, and, “People struggling to get by in their own lives will find it hard to sympathise with those they feel are getting a free ride”.
The Government propaganda about “shirkers” and “strivers not skivers” seems therefore to be working. Unfortunately, on programmes such as “Question Time”, these phrases have been enthusiastically adopted by many members of the audience.
This of course is a classic example of the “Divide and Conquer” strategy being employed against the working class.
Another ruse used by the Government to justify their unremitting attacks on the working class is the mythology that cuts are necessary, and “that we are all in this together”.
The idea that those at the top of society will suffer just as much as those at the bottom would be laughable if it were not so insulting and contemptible; the very people who decided to cut the living standards of working class people are in the process of voting themselves a pay rise of between £10 to £20 thousand pounds a year. Most of us would be delighted to live on just the pay rise, but in fact MP’s will now get more than £75,000 a year-some of them want £100,000, – yet they have the nerve to say that we all have to share the pain!
And of course the Bankers still get their bonuses and Multi-nationals manage to dodge paying tax.
The claim that cuts in public services are necessary at all is a complete lie. As Tony Benn once said, “If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people”. According to U.K. Government figures Britain spent at least £9.24 billion in Iraq and £11.1 billion in Afghanistan between April 2001 and March 2010, and that’s not taking into account what has been squandered from 2010 till now.
The so-called Ministry of Defence lost £74 million pounds of taxpayers’ money recently on a cancelled order for fighter jets. (Richard Johnstone, Public Finance 10 May 2013).
So it would seem that there is plenty of money to wage illegal and pointless wars, but not enough money to create a caring peaceful society.
There is another war going on at the moment; it is the class war. A war waged by those at the top of society against those at the bottom. We are the victims of this war. For generations working class people have had to endure poor wages, bad and often dangerous working conditions, industrial illnesses and long periods of financial hardship.
Working class people are still being killed daily in this war. Literally thousands of people die every year after Atos has passed them fit for work. People have been forced to work for benefit money; before long regular workers will be sacked then they too can work for slave wages and will join the millions of others living below the breadline.
Warren Buffett an American billionaire business magnate once said, “There’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class – the rich class that’s making war, and we’re winning!”
Through these measures, the Government has upped the ante in their war against the disabled and unemployed. If you aren’t in work, or are sick or disabled you don’t deserve to live, – you are a useless eater!
In this war against the working class the sick, the disabled and the unemployed are being culled. The Government are killing working class people.
If this seems farfetched, you only have to remember this, the entire Nazi extermination programme which culminated in the Holocaust, started in 1939 with the T4 euthanasia program which targeted sick and disabled people. If the German people had resisted at this stage the Second World War may never have happened.
The only way we can prevent history repeating itself, is for ordinary working class people to organise and fight back. We have to combat the Bedroom Tax and all the other cuts that the Government and their friends in big business are trying to impose on us. We have to rely on ourselves and not on politicians; they are part of the problem not the solution!
Above all, we have to overcome the State’s attempts to divide and rule us; we need to show our fellow workers that we have nothing in common with the boss class and that we must build our own organisations and strong communities to unite against them.
Only then can we hope to win the class war.
On the 26th April Glasgow Against Atos were on the streets again for our regular rolling picket in the city centre. We began like usual by meeting outside the Atos testing centre on Cadogan Street. We chanted messages of solidarity for Steve Topley, a man who had been arrested and detained in Nottingham for making angry threats during his Atos assessment. Our campaign stands in solidarity with all of those who are routinely degraded by this brutal attack on the sick and disabled.
In reaction to the huge toll of deaths caused by the brutal Work Capability Assessments, members of GAA had put up placards on the wall commemorating those who had died in the process. In response, police waded in and declared that the placards must be removed as they were on private property. However, rightly standing our ground, we refused to take them down. In a powerfully symbolic action, the police officers ripped them down themselves- signifying the complete disregard from the State to the tragedy of thousands of deaths.
After this commotion, some people stayed at Cadogan Street to offer advice to those entering the building to undergo their assessment, whilst a group began the rolling picket around the city centre. We began by mobilising at the Royal Mail Post Office at St. Vincent Street as they are currently engaged in a contract with Atos. We set up our banners and began distributing leaflets whilst members of the campaign made speeches on the mega-phone.
It was clear at this point that the police were desperate to make an arrest, with around six officers placed near the group. The picket was soon interrupted by the appearance of a lead organiser of the BNP, whose appearance we can assume was no coincidence. The GAA made sure that the presence of this man and his politics would not be tolerated as we took to the megaphone to expose his identity and condemn his insolence and beliefs. In reaction to this the police stepped in and gave us a warning to stop using the megaphone, protecting the interests of racist party members instead of peaceful protesters. Their strategy was evident as it emerged that the police themselves had approached shop owners, asking them to make a complaint about the noise and giving them a reason to shut us down.
Not deterred, we promptly organised ourselves and headed toward Buchanan Street where we defiantly began to use the megaphone again, showing the cops we will not be defeated! Here a number of speeches were made which attracted a positive response from the general public. With a police van on guard and the police waiting for arrests to be made, we collectively agreed that it would be best to leaflet some more at the bottom of Buchanan Street and leave our regular picket outside the Commonwealth Games Offices on Albion Street.
The actions of the police during this protest clearly exhibits the struggle that Glasgow Against Atos face in attempting to defend the basic human rights of the sick and disabled. It is clear that the time is now to fight against the ruling class who continuously attempt to quash any form of resistance against this brutal and vicious policy.