- Created: Wednesday, 28 May 2014 21:09
- Written by Mark Moncada
Byker Jobcentre Plus in Newcastle has sanctioned claimants 1,735 times in 14 months
There has been a massive increase in sanctions since the introduction of the new sanctions regime in October 2012. Nationally, 580,000 people have lost their benefit, 48,000 of these for three years. Sanctions are a way to punish the unemployed and force them off benefits into whatever badly paid, insecure job the ‘market’ spews up from the mire.
On Friday 23 May supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in Newcastle took to the streets of the East End to protest against benefit sanctions.
The protest started at the East End Customer Service Centre where people affected by the bedroom tax have to pay the increase in rent. There were two big boards for people to write on their experiences of sanctions; harassment and bullying at the Jobcentre; and what they think about the criminalisation they face from the fascistic benefits regime. We met people who have been sanctioned for such heinous crimes as taking their children to hospital instead of attending a training course, taking time off seeking work to attend their father's funeral or attending a job interview instead of a job centre appointment!
The protest then moved onto Byker Jobcentre where between October 2012 to December 2013, staff have doled out 1,735 sanctions. Whilst a people’s complaints officer took down complaints from claimants, people spoke on the megaphone about their persecution at the hands of the DWP, chanting: ‘Jobcentre hear us say: Sanctions no way!’ and ‘Ian Duncan Smith lives in a mansion. The unemployed are getting sanctioned.’
At the end there was an attempt to hand in the board of comments to the Jobcentre manager. Demonstrators were stopped at the door by G4S henchmen who spoke over the manager and refused to take the board. G4S have been given national contracts by the government to oversee the punishment of all sections of the working class; from managing immigration prisons and being the first private company to open and run a prison in Britain, to running the Work Programme in several regions and providing security at Jobcentres.
One thing is clear. With so many people being oppressed and exploited by capitalism and its gendarmes there is a whole ocean of anger just waiting to come crashing down on this corrupt, vile system. Now is the time to organise that anger and build a fight back capable of winning victories against the Jobcentre, however small, however big. As one person on Jobseekers Allowance stated at the protest:
‘You think you have all the power over us, you think you have us cowering before you, that you have sapped all confidence from us, that we have given in, that you have us beaten. You are wrong. We are angry. We are raging. We are not down and we are not out. We are getting organised and we are coming after you. No longer will you bully us; no longer will you isolate us. We are growing in strength. And we are confident, we are confident that we will win.’
Join the next protest. Thursday 5 June 2014, 10am outside Byker Jobcentre, Coquet House, Clifford Street NE6 1PH (just down from Byker Metro station).
To get involved contact FRFI North East:
No cuts! No sanctions! We demand decent work of full maintenance!