Sunday, 23 November 2014

Protesting jobseeker threatened with benefit sanction in Ashton-under-Lyne!

A 32-year-old jobseeker from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, has been told by staff at Ashton Jobcentre, that his benefit will be stopped if he continues to support a regular Thursday protest taking place outside the Jobcentre against unfair and illegal sanctions and the abuse of power by staff. He was also told by his advisor that she objected to him wearing a badge against sanctions and asked him, if he understood what he was getting himself involved with.

The English like to brag a lot about Freedom, but it seems that if your unemployed in Tory Britain today, your freedom to protest, certainly outside your own Jobcentre, is seriously being curtailed and makes you a prime target for unfair and illegal benefit sanctions. But this kind of draconian action and control, is not just confined to jobseekers.

In Britain today, students who have protested against such things as the high cost of tuition fees, have been threatened with expulsion from educational institutions. Bolshie workers who insist on safe working practices or.who take employers to an employment tribunal, are labelled 'troublemakers' and sacked and put on employers' blacklists. In the NHS, health workers who have identified deficiences in the standards of patient care, have been sacked and blacklisted from getting further work within the NHS. Most of this would have been unthinkable forty years ago before the advent of Thatcherism and political regimes that objectively favour private capital.

However, the lump-heads who work for the DWP at Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre, may very well have handed the protestors on a plate, the ammunition they need by their bullying of a young jobseeker. Initially, the protest was sparked in August this year, when the Jobcentre was found to have sanctioned a 19-year-old jobseeker for having the temerity to tell a local retailer, B&Q, during an interview for unpaid work, that she was 23-weeks pregnant. Now protesters outside Ashton Jobcentre, are telling the public that jobseeker's are being threatened with sanctions for exercising their legimate right to peacefully protest. There is also talk of a complaint being made to the police about the actions of Jobcentre staff who are causing  jobseeker's, harassment, distress and alarm, on a daily basis, which is a statutory offence in England and Wales.

The ancient Greeks recognised only too well that eternal vigilance was the price of freedom. The nineteenth-century historian, Lord Acton, was well aware that "power corrupts and and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But for me, it is the romantic poet Shelley, who puts it most succinctly in his poem Queen Mab, where he wrote: 

Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience,
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame
A mechanized automaton.

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