Scottish National Party – outdoing 'I, Daniel Blake'

snp cuts

Recent successful court judgments against the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have drawn attention to the onerous process of mandatory reconsideration before a claimant who has received a benefit sanction can go to a Social Security Tribunal. Mandatory reconsideration applies to any DWP decision not just to sanction those on Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, but also to decisions on Personal Independence Payments. Introduced in 2013, the purpose of mandatory reconsideration is to make life as difficult as possible for a claimant. The decision under appeal remains until the mandatory reconsideration process is complete; it may take weeks and the target is to uphold 80% of original decisions. Social Security Tribunals, on the other hand, grant more than 50% of appeals. Some welfare powers are now being devolved to Scotland, and it is apparent that despite many declarations to the contrary, the SNP government is determined to retain the same two-stage system.

 

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Scotland: Fighting Labour and the SNP

Glasgow Stand Up Demo

The urgency of the fight for socialism has become apparent with the result of the general election in Scotland. A reshuffle of seats between the parties implementing austerity, racism and war saw the Scottish National Party (SNP) lose 21 seats, the Scottish Tories gain 12 and Scottish Labour gain six. In affluent rural constituencies, leading SNP MPs including deputy leader Angus Robertson lost to Conservative candidates while Labour regained some of its old territory in working class constituencies in and around Glasgow.

In the weeks before the election Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! comrades urged people to break from this parliamentary sham, arguing ‘Don’t vote – fight for socialism!’ On 27 May, we confronted the local Labour Party in Govanhill. Its supporters abandoned their stall after they failed to stop us exposing their record of cuts, racism and war to the passing public. We said that Labour and the SNP should be treated as class enemies, and many people agreed.

 

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Scotland: No vote for SNP or Labour!

labscotland frfi glasgow

As the general election campaign gets underway, sections of the left are calling either for a vote for Corbyn’s Labour Party, or for the Scottish National Party (SNP) on the grounds that one or the other is the only ‘progressive’ alternative to the Tories. Both, however, are completely reactionary, and the only progressive alternative is a boycott of this election sham and a fight for socialism.

No to the SNP!

The SNP is a reactionary, bourgeois party. Scotland currently has around 43,000 millionaires while also being home to some of the worst inequality and poverty in Western Europe. But the decade-old SNP Scottish Government has repeatedly refused to raise taxes on the wealthy in Scotland to alleviate the worst of these problems while decrying the lack of money from Westminster. It pays lip service to social justice but in education, health and child care, policing, courts and prisons it oversees inequality and injustice daily while implementing further cuts to legal aid, schools, colleges, jobs and services across the country. Its push for a second independence referendum is to dampen any resistance to its austerity programme and does not reflect anything progressive for the working class.

 

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From the cradle to the grave - Inequality and poverty in Scottish education

The first months of 2017 have been dominated by headlines of an attainment gap in education between the richest and poorest children in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged education is her top priority amidst concern at falling standards in education overall. While elitist academics and politicians eagerly discuss the riddle of inequality in education, they cannot accept that the answer is rooted in poverty itself.

According to Scottish government statistics, children from wealthier areas outperform children from poorer areas from the moment they begin primary school (The Herald 14 December 2016). Around 90% of children from richer postcodes achieved the standards of reading, writing and numeracy expected of them by teachers. This compares to around 74% of children from the poorest areas. By Primary Seven, around 80% of children from the 20% wealthiest areas achieved the expected Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) standards of writing and numeracy, while almost half of children from the 20% most deprived areas failed to meet these levels.

 

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SNP pushes for Scottish Referendum 2

On 13 March Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon publicly announced the intention of the Scottish government to prepare for a second independence referendum. The timescale she proposed, between August 2018 and Spring 2019, is aimed to lessen the complications of Scotland’s re-entry into EU membership as an independent state. British Conservative Prime Minister May responded by ruling out another referendum on that timetable, fearing it will undermine the government’s position during the Brexit negotiations. Dominic Mulgrew reports.

While the Scottish government demands its ‘democratic right’ to a referendum, this dispute has nothing to do with democracy. Behind this ‘constitutional crisis’ lies a crisis of the British ruling class and its imperialist position worldwide; whether to side with US or EU imperialism. Moves towards a second independence referendum express the concerns and aspirations of a section of the British ruling class based in Scotland, as Britain heads towards a ‘hard’ Brexit. Masquerading behind nationalism and the interests of ‘the people’, their solutions will come at the expense of the working class and oppressed.

 

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SNP and Labour unite to impose austerity

sturgeon dugdale

The Scottish National Party and the Labour Party both say they are against austerity without any evidence to support such claims. On the contrary, both parties are putting legality before supporting social services. As an SNP councillor in Angus rural council stated: 'At this stage the only assurance I can give...is that we will deliver a legally balanced budget. I can give no further assurances about services.'

 

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Scotland – fighting austerity still the key!

dundee against welfare

As Scotland’s poor face another desperate winter forced to choose between heating or eating in order to live, the Scottish National Party (SNP) government’s promises of social justice are wearing thin.

Severe poverty is defined as those living with household income below 50% of UK median income. In 2014/15 this equated to £237 per week before housing costs (£12,358 per year) and £202 per week after housing costs (£10,533 per year). According to the latest statistics for 2014/15 the rates of severe poverty in Scotland stand at 12% of the population (630,000 people) after housing costs (Severe Poverty in Scotland: Communities Analysis report, August 2016). This includes 130,000 children, 10,000 more than the previous year.

 

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Scotland: Who owns the land?

mipim

Scotland has the ‘most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world’ (Professor James Hunter, The Guardian, 2013). Around 432 families own half the land in Scotland. The Global Justice Now report, Scotland’s land barons and their connections to global capitalism published in August 2016, has shown Scotland’s land system is not simply a ‘feudal relic’ but very much part of a global parasitic capitalism (imperialism) with ‘billionaire oilmen and Emirati princes, mineral conglomerates, London property speculators, online clothing retailers, Swiss bankers, and financiers of every sort’ claiming a stake alongside the Dukes of Buccleuch and Argyll.

Landowners in Scotland are notoriously hard to identify, with almost 750,000 acres of land held through a series of opaque offshore companies. The SNP government has been criticised by land campaigners for giving carte blanche to rich industrialists buying up vast swathes of Scotland’s countryside. Under pressure it has set a target of publicly registering all landowners by 2024. Some landowners have already been exposed by Global Justice Now as having links to colonial style racism through land grabs, exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction:

 

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Victory against prison brutality in Scotland

JB pic

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters were present at Greenock Sheriff Court on 24 June to see the fabricated assault charges against John Bowden finally abandoned. A not proven verdict was given by the judge after a roughly two hour trial. The case had been dragging on since 6 March 2015. 

Since his imprisonment over 30 years ago, John has been a regular contributor to FRFI’s Prisoners Fightback page, as well as to other progressive publications, and has been a consistent organiser for prisoners’ rights. Eager to get their own back and silence John, the prison authorities in England and Scotland have repeatedly targeted him with brutality and isolation. This was but the latest attempt to pin fresh charges on John in order to delay his long overdue release. However, due to John’s uncompromising stand and the bravery of another prisoner who witnessed the incident and gave evidence in court, a further injustice was not allowed to happen.

 

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Lochee protests against exploitation and austerity. 'SNP! Hear Us Say – Budget Cuts – No Way!'

On Saturday 7 May history came alive at the protest in Lochee. Dundee against Workfare. Dundee Against Austerity (DAA), the Revolutionary Communist Group, Class War, Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Trades Union Council, Dundee Trades Union and Socialist Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party stood united to condemn workfare exploitation at the Range store.

We were standing on the site of what was once the largest jute mill in the world where Scottish and Irish immigrant workers toiled to make the Baxter, Caird and Cox mill owning families fabulously wealthy. At one point in the 19th Century the densest proportion of millionaires in Europe could be found in the richest suburb of Dundee, Broughty Ferry, many miles from the filth and heat of their factories.

 

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Scotland: SNP and Labour share out austerity

‘This idea that the SNP are going to put an end to austerity is just nonsense.’
David May, independent councillor

Pensioners in Angus have learned the reality of that statement. Service users and their families in the small towns have confronted the SNP-run rural council. Iain Gaul, council leader, argued on BBC Radio Scotland that privatisation was the most effective means of providing care services. The SNP council is seeking £0.5m cuts, and the vulnerable are to bear the cost. So much for the SNP’s claim to be anti-austerity.

 

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Fighting deportation: exposing the SNP

The Scottish government’s White Paper, published in 2013, proposed that in the event of independence the SNP would end dawn raids, close Dungavel Detention Centre and grant people seeking asylum access to the mainstream welfare system. As it is, immigration law remains a ‘reserved issue’ for Westminster, over which, according to the rules of bourgeois democracy, the Scottish government has ‘no power’. SNP politicians and ministers have repeatedly raised their opposition to inhumane UK immigration policy and proclaimed ‘refugees are welcome here’. However, the reality is that devolved Scottish institutions and public bodies, above all the police, are deeply involved in colluding with the racism of the British state and its associated violence. The apparent outrage of the Scottish government is worthless in the face of Police Scotland’s direct role in carrying out dawn raids and brutalising those who are actually opposing Britain’s racist immigration system.

This collaboration was starkly exposed by recent events in Glasgow. On 21 March, Police Scotland officers and local social workers assisted a Home Office Enforcement Team in carrying out a brutal early morning raid against Beverley Vaanda Kanjii and her 14-year-old son. In the course of the raid, in front of her terrified child, Beverley was handcuffed, dragged across the ground and repeatedly kicked, sustaining serious injuries. After her son refused to board a flight from Glasgow Airport, they were transferred to the Home Office’s Immigration Reporting Centre on Brand Street.

 

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How SNP government votes for cuts and austerity

On Wednesday 16 December, the Scottish National Party’s John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy, delivered his budget statement to the Scottish parliament. He described it as a ‘Scottish alternative to austerity’. The following week, 7,000 people in the country sought emergency food parcels in the run-up to Christmas Day.

The SNP has positioned itself as a progressive anti-austerity force in Scotland and the United Kingdom. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon proclaimed when she was elected leader in 2015 that her central aim was to tackle poverty. Swinney has now reconfigured the priorities: ‘Critical pillars of Scottish life – our schools, hospitals and police – will not be sacrificed to the Chancellor’s austerity obsession.’ As a consequence, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has estimated that cuts of up to £500 million per year will fall on other areas of spending up to the end of the decade. Cuts to unprotected departments of 2.9% in 2016-17 will rise to 10.7% by 2020.

 

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Scotland: SNP progressive claims to be tested

‘Both Labour and SNP point left in rhetoric but neither do in action or deeds’

(Gerry Hassan, Scottish Sunday Mail 8 November 2015)

On the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum of September 2014, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Trussell Trust and Oxfam Scotland drew attention to the continuing rise in foodbank usage linked directly to problems with welfare benefits and tax credits. The Scottish government’- that is the Scottish National Party - were urged to do more to address the situation.

A further report in early October by the Child Poverty Action Group showed that 210,000 children across Scotland live in poverty. Each of Edinburgh’s 17 council wards has child poverty rates of more than 10%. Across Edinburgh 21% of children – 15,000 – live in poverty as defined by being in households where income is less than 60% of median household income. In Glasgow’s Easterhouse 40% of children grow up in poverty while 27% of people live with a disability. 940,000 families were living in fuel poverty in 2013, 39% of households.

 

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Fighting sanctions in Scotland

One year on from the Scottish independence referendum the need for an organised working class movement remains the key to smashing the Tories’ brutal benefit sanctions regime. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released in August show that almost half of all benefit sanction decisions against JSA and ESA claimants across the UK have been overturned under challenge. Between 22 October 2012 and 31 March 2015 there were 1,824,877 adverse sanctions against claimants. 575,901 of these decisions were challenged, with 285,327 being overturned, a staggering 49.5%. This shows the importance of appealing against benefit sanction decisions.

In Scotland during this period, 7,668 sanctions were applied at Dundee’s Wellgate Jobcentre making it the worst jobcentre for sanctions in Scotland. In Glasgow, Springburn Jobcentre recorded the highest number, 3,997, with Govan second highest at 3,108. Alongside Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network and Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters have maintained regular pickets outside both Wellgate and Govan Jobcentres over the last year against this brutal policy.

 

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Making a noise for Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy

 
Supporters from Fight Racism Fight Imperialism went up to Kirkcaldy on 8 August to join others collecting signatures and handing out hundreds of leaflets demanding justice for Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody on 3 May earlier this year. Nine Police officers were involved in his restraint, using pepper spray, CS gas, batons, handcuffs, ankle and leg restraints. Sheku died from positional asphyxiation. This has been a cover-up from the start!The family was given 5 different stories on the same day by the police about how he died and in one version the police were not even present. It took 32 days for the officers to give a statement on his death and the 9 officers involved were able to meet immediately after the death to corroborate their stories and it has emerged that Stephen House, Police Scotland's chief constable, has secretly met each of the police officers involved in Sheku's death.
 
No Justice! No Peace!
Join the march for justice for Sheku Bayoh
6 September 2015, Kirkcaldy,  2pm at Kirkcaldy town house.
 
Support the campaign: Facebook Justice-For-Sheku-Ahmed-Tejan-Bayoh

Donate to the campaign through YouCaring www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/justice-for-sheku-ahmed-tejan-bayoh

 

Scotland: fighting the SNP and Labour

George square 20 June

In Scotland, fighting austerity means taking on both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Labour Party.

Whatever the anti-austerity rhetoric of SNP MPs in Westminster, on the ground it is a different story. In Dundee, it took 13 weeks of all-out strike action by117 hospital porters in Dundee, Unite union members, before they won their fight against low pay with demands for pay re-grading and back pay. They were up against the SNP Scottish government which backed down only after the porters began pickets of the office of Dundee East MSP and Health Minister Shona Robison. Caledonian MacBrayne ferry workers, members of the RMT and TSSA unions, are also calling strike action as the Scottish government moves to privatise the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service with no guarantee over jobs, wages and conditions. On the same day as the 20 June anti-austerity rally in Glasgow, the SNP’s trade union group met in Stirling but did not extend an invitation to the striking Dundee porters.

 

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SNP – pay the porters now!

In Dundee, the all-out strike of 117 hospital porters is moving into its ninth week. The porters, members of Unite and Unison, have been in dispute over their pay grading which is set at the lowest level in the NHS. They are seeking regrading and the payment of back money owed over years. Years of poverty pay and getting nowhere with intransigent management and dishonest negotiation has forced the workers to withdraw their labour. The picket lines have been solidly maintained at Ninewells and Royal Victoria Hospitals. Donations have poured in to support the low-paid staff and they have marched in solidarity with striking council care workers in Glasgow.

 

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What next for the Scottish National Party?

‘Labour gained 142 seats and Glasgow sent off 10 ‘Red Clydesiders’ to Parliament to abolish poverty. It is recorded that on the train down these MPs were concerned chiefly to discover if being thrown out of the House of Commons meant a loss of salary. Abolishing poverty was one thing but joining the ranks of the poor was not their intention.’

(1922 General Election, quoted in John Maclean, Battlepost of the Poor)

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has styled itself as the new party of progressive social democracy in Scotland and campaigned for a parliamentary anti-austerity alliance with the Labour Party. This strategy unravelled with the Tory victory. The September 2014 referendum posed the question: who will represent the working class? Our answer then was neither the Scottish Labour Party nor the SNP. That has not changed today.

 

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Scotland - No vote for austerity!

As we approach the general election, polls suggest that Labour could lose all but five of its 41 seats in Scotland – a historic defeat. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy insults the electorate with populist policies such as reintroducing alcohol to football grounds. The ‘Red Tories’ are a ruling class party and must be buried.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is swallowing up the ground lost by Labour. Its membership, now over 100,000, has more than quadrupled since the referendum. It is proclaiming itself to be an anti-cuts party and has implemented measures to increase free childcare to 16 hours a week for three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds, grant free school meals to children up to Primary 3 and continue to meet the cost of the bedroom tax with discretionary housing payments.

 

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Scotland - Home rule or independence?

In FRFI 242 we stated that: ‘Home Rule will represent the limit of the aspirations of the middle class and better-off sections of the working class: the SNP is a bourgeois party and it will implement whatever cuts are necessary to preserve economic stability.’ The historic referendum on Scottish independence saw the mass of the working class, the youth and progressive people vote overwhelmingly to secede from the imperialist United Kingdom. 1.6 million people in predominantly urban and poor working class constituencies voted Yes. However, the working class has reached the limits of what can be achieved by voting at this moment. Now is the time to organise across Scotland a fight against the austerity programme of the Tories, the Labour Party and the SNP. Any progress in this struggle requires an end to the reactionary Union and with it a complete break from the bankrupt British labour movement. It must become a fight for socialism.

 

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Who speaks for the Scottish working class?

On Saturday 22 November, FRFI supporters were among 3,000 activists who attended a conference convened by the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in Glasgow. At the same time, possibly as a spoiling tactic, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) organised a rally at an arena a hundred yards away which attracted 12,000 people. Politics in Scotland has undergone a dramatic change as a result of the referendum on 18 September. The genie is out of the bottle, and it will be very difficult for the ruling class, whether in Scotland or in Britain, to put it back. As political parties prepare for the 2015 General Election, the question is: who will speak for the Scottish working class?

 

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Scottish Independence Referendum - Ruling class panics as Scottish youth and oppressed show the way forward

On 19 September, the British ruling class breathed a huge sigh of relief when the results of the previous day’s referendum on Scottish independence were announced. The possibility of a Yes victory had caused widespread panic in the days beforehand. But on a massive turnout of 84.6%, 55.3% had voted against independence, with 44.7% in favour – two million as against just over 1.6 million. Within hours of the result, pledges by the three Westminster party leaders offering more powers to Scotland in an effort to bolster the No vote, were bogged down in petty party squabbles. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish First Minister, who had spearheaded the Yes campaign, announced his intention to resign his positions.

 

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Scotland votes no to independence

bwd  Set 1/2  fwd

2,001,926 (55.3%) voted no, with 1,617,989 (44.7%) voting yes. Overall turnout 84.5%.

The British ruling class is today breathing a huge sigh of relief. The possibility of a Yes victory in the Scottish referendum had caused widespread panic. A triumphalist media is now congratulating everyone on how democratic and peaceful the referendum was. We are told that the result represents the will of the people; but the reality is that it represents the fear of the people. Following the result, SNP leader and Scottish Minister, Alex Salmond announced his intention to step down from his positions. Within hours of the result, the pledges by the three Westminster party leaders to offer more powers to Scotland, lie in tatters.

 

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Scottish independence referendum: Yes now in a majority

'May He sedition hush, And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush.' - 1745.

Sixth Verse of the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen.

The emergence of the Scottish working class, particularly its poorest sections, into the campaign for Scottish independence has been a very recent phenomenon. A YouGov poll published on Saturday 6 September showed for the first time that a majority of people intended to vote Yes. With ‘Don’t Knows’ stripped out, 51% are supporting independence while 49% are for remaining in the UK. The next day saw falls in the value of the pound and billions of pounds were wiped off the value of Scottish firms. The skies are darkening for the loyal Labour, Tory and Liberal No campaign.

 

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Scotland: Yes to independence - No to British imperialism

On 18 September the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, will be put to the Scottish electorate, estimated at around four million, when newly franchised 16-year-old voters are taken into account. A ‘Yes’ vote will begin a process of negotiation between the governments of Scotland and the United Kingdom on future constitutional arrangements. Michael MacGregor argues that this opportunity should be used to advance the interests of the working class and to undermine imperialism.

 

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Glasgow Strife: Fighting for workers’ rights in Glasgow

I have been a long time supporter of FRFI in Glasgow. The analysis provided in the paper of the ever increasing attacks on poorer sections of the working class, casualisation and the role of the unions and the Labour party in implementing these attacks has been confirmed time and again in my own experience as a worker.

For the past four years, I have worked in an arts venue in Glasgow managed on behalf of Glasgow City Council by Glasgow Life, one of the Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) established by the Labour council in 2007.

 

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Glasgow: For action and democracy in the fight against ATOS

The ruling class attacks on sick and disabled people are escalating as the poorest sections of society are being forced to pay for the capitalist crisis. ATOS – the French multinational installed by the Department of Work and Pensions to implement the destruction of social welfare provision – has been subject to growing militant protest and pickets by Glasgow Against ATOS (GAA). Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in Glasgow have been working with GAA for the past year.  The statement below has been produced by Glasgow FRFI in response to recent attacks on them from within GAA.

 

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Scotland: Fighting the bedroom tax, challenging the Labour Party

Memories of the Poll Tax still run deep in Scotland, where Thatcher first implemented the hated tax, and working class resistance to it first arose. With the bedroom tax now set to affect 105,000 social housing tenants, around 80% of whom are disabled, anger and organisation is building once again. Yet so too are the opportunist forces on the left and in the Labour Party who sought to control the anti-poll tax movement, and seek to hold back resistance again.

 

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PCS says ‘We will not manufacture a dispute’ against Atos

Public and Commercial Services Union

On Thursday 14 February, members of the expanding Glasgow Against Atos (GAA) campaign including an FRFI supporter met with representatives of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union to discuss how the PCS could help GAA fight against welfare cutbacks. GAA was set up in October 2012 as a broad-based campaign following successful pickets of Atos initiated by Glasgow FRFI.

 

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