Atos ditches the WCA: Maximus is the new target

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From March, US multinational Maximus will take over the running of the hated Work Capability Assessment (WCA), in a contract worth around £500m over three and a half years. The WCA is a punitive measure used to strip disabled people of their benefits by declaring them 'fit to work'. Atos, the French multinational that has delivered the WCA since it was introduced by Labour in 2007, announced in March 2014 that it was buying itself out of its contract early. Atos’s withdrawal follows years of determined campaigning by activists across Britain and is an important demonstration that uncompromising direct action gets results. However, the WCA itself remains unchanged, and the track record of Atos’s successor shows that the struggle is far from over.

Maximus has an annual revenue of $1.05bn, and also operates in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. It already runs the Work Programme in some parts of Britain. It has been mired in scandal, including fraudulent claims for Medicaid in the US, which it settled for $30.5m to avoid a criminal investigation, accusations of disability discrimination from one of its own employees, which it settled with a payout of $50,000, and numerous cases of improper use of public funds. In 2013, Maximus CEO Richard Montoni received a salary and compensation package of over $5m. As many campaigners have pointed out, Maximus know what they are taking on with the WCA contract, including the many deaths of disabled people that have been directly attributed to the WCA and the despair and desperation it has caused. In an effort to improve its image and undermine opposition, Maximus has hired prominent campaigner Sue Marsh, who runs the blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, as Head of Customer Experience on a salary of £75,000.

The ruling class are determined to punish the poor and disabled, in an effort to make people so desperate they will accept work for ever lower wages and poorer conditions. The message of the WCA is clear: if you are not in work, your life is worthless. Outsourcing some of these functions simply makes the process less accountable, and in the process produces handsome profits. The task now is to target Maximus with the same determination that has been directed at Atos. Atos’s withdrawal has already left a backlog of 600,000 cases, and there is a real opportunity now to make the WCA unworkable. Intensify the pressure!

Thomas Vincent