Sunday, 7 June 2015

"Okey cokey pig in a pokey" - Ashton Jobcentre gets uppity over protesters placard!

The weekly protests outside Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre, have attracted the attention of various media organisations, but not the local press in Tameside. The only local newspaper now in business in Tameside, the Reporter and Chronicle, is owned by the housing company, New Charter Housing Trust Ltd under the guise of 'Piccolo Communications'. The housing company, which has close links to Tameside Council, also owns Tameside Radio and are involved in delivering the 'Troubled Families' agenda with the council. Under this initiative, the Conservative Government have identified 120,000 'persistently anti-social families'. However, it later emerged that this figure was actually a measure of social deprivation and not behaviour. Unemployed single-parents, have been designated 'troubled families' by Ashton Jobcentre and referred to the scheme because they were not considered to be doing enough to look for work.

On Thursday, researchers from, called at Ashton Jobcentre and spoke to protesters. They are making a television documentary for Channel 4's 'Dispatches', about welfare and benefit reforms and want to speak to people in receipt of in-work state benefits about how reforms are affecting them. Anyone who is receiving JSA, Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits, and wishes to speak to 'Dispatches' on a 'confidential basis', should contact - Jessica Bell or Jane Drinkwater directly on 0161 832 2007 or and

Many people are often unaware of the extent to which state welfare is being used to subsidise poverty pay in Britain. Today, only one-in-eight people who are receiving housing benefit, are not in work. In other words, people who are in work, are often unable to pay their rent because they are not paid enough. State benefits have become the prop for the failure of capitalism to deliver decent jobs and wages. Since 1980, unemployment has averaged more than three-times the post-war rate, while the proportion of those in low-paid jobs, has doubled to over 20%. Britain is the only country in the G7 group of leading economies where inequality has increased this century. (Credit Suisse - annual global wealth report - October 2014, P.33). Yet, while many of us have got poorer, this has coincided with a boom in the number of rich and super-rich in Britain. Those people who can least afford it, have paid the price for the man-made financial crisis caused by the bankers and politicians.

Even people who work in the Jobcentre are not immune from poverty pay. According to Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the PCS trade union, some 40% of his members who work in the Jobcentre, do qualify for the state handout Universal Credit, because they are "fantastically low-paid." Yet these very same people who are in receipt of state benefits, are often the ones, who vilify claimants and stop their benefits in order to meet government sanction targets.

With the introduction of the Tories 'Universal Credit' (UC), things are likely to get a lot worse in terms of personal scrutiny, regulation, and control.  One aspect of Universal Credit, is what is termed 'conditionality', and this will have implications for anyone who is in work and is claiming Universal Credit, JSA, or Working Tax Credits. As with the unemployed, people in receipt of in-work benefits, will be required to attend regular Jobcentre interviews and could face sanctions (loss of benefits), if they fail to carry out directions given to them by the Jobcentre, such as being required to look for better paid work or to increase the hours that they already work.

Some Jobcentre staff in other areas of the country, have been disciplined for not sanctioning enough people on benefits and opposition to the Government's harsh sanctioning regime is growing. At the last PCS conference, it was agreed that PCS members would be encouraged to support local groups campaigning against sanctions and would support initiatives that sought to undermine and expose, the draconian sanction regime that exists in Jobcentres. However, this is unlikely to make much of an impression on staff working at Ashton Jobcentre, who have been heard boasting in the local Caledonian pub in Ashton, about the number of 'dole-ites', they have sanctioned that week.  On Thursday, one diminutive and stroppy female member of staff, came out of Ashton Jobcentre accompanied by a G4S security guard and admonished a demonstrator, for carrying a PCS placard, which she objected to. "I know who your are" she told the burly protester. With hardening attitudes like this, it seems likely that these protesters are in it for the long haul. 

1 comment:

tonydj said...

Local Blog "Tameside Citizen " has covered the situation surrounding Ashton Job Centre. See:-