Protesters blockade Salvation Army store

Posted on 11/04/2014 by

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Anti-poverty protestors blockaded Edinburgh’s main Salvation Army shop for three hours last Saturday (5th April) over the charity’s support of the Westminster government’s ‘work for benefits’ scheme. The demonstrators – the group included members of local campaigning group North Edinburgh Fights Back – displayed a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN at the Earl Grey Street shop.

Dubbed The Starvation Army by its opponents, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) says the Salvation Army is heavily involved nationally in the government’s controversial work-for-your-benefits schemes, and in Edinburgh is believed to be the main work placement for claimants ordered to participate in the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, administered by the provider learndirect.

ECAP claim The Salvation Army is also very involved in the Work Programme, under which even disabled claimants can be forced onto workfare. Claimants unable to take part in this unpaid work, or who decline to work for no pay, face having their benefits stopped under the government’s “enhanced sanctions” regime.

ECAP say the blockade was a success – the shop closed for a time and at least two women turned away and took their bag of donations to the nearby Shelter shop when they were informed of the ‘Sally Army’s’ involvement in workfare.

“We felt our action was very successful. We shut down a key workfare user for three hours at the busiest time of the week. And we gave out hundreds of leaflets to passers-by, stressing that workfare is an attack on the wages and conditions of all workers, and many people reacted positively,” said Esther McDonald of Edinburgh Coalition Ágainst Poverty.

The protest was aimed at galvanising opposition to the government’s plan for a new workfare scheme, Community Work Placements, which extends the period of compulsory work-for-benefits to six months. A Britain-wide week of action, co-ordinated through Boycott Workfare has seen actions in many towns and cities. On 31st March in London protestors invaded the YMCA and sang “Forced to work at the Y-M-C-A”.

“The Community Work Placements scheme is already in trouble, ” say ECAP. “Many charities have already said they will not participate – even the Salvation Army won’t touch it – and its start date has been postponed. We urge all charities and voluntary organisations to boycott the scheme. Research shows that workfare does not help the unemployed find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

The main contract for the Community Work Placements scheme in Scotland does not yet seem to have been awarded – we are researching which organisation is to be involved as we plan to take direct action against them and make this workfare scheme unworkable.”

For more information see:

http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk

http://www.boycottworkfare.org

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and Boycott Workfare are both on Facebook and on Twitter

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