Letters - FRFI 248 Dec 2015/Jan 2016

Slave labour is good for business

In the 1930s work camps were established for the unemployed. This process is again unfolding in Britain today.

I have been unemployed for a little under three years. At first, I was claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) due to my poor mental health, reliance on alcohol and suicidal urges. ATOS judged me fit for work. My ESA was stopped. After a prolonged period of destitution, I signed on to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). My first claim was short-lived: a sanction for not using the correct website terrified me. I chose destitution over support. Recently, I have signed on to JSA again. Two weeks following my claim – before I had received any money – I was assigned a work placement, on pain of sanction.

I presently work 35 hours a week, without pay. I am a receptionist at an optician’s. To attain this placement, I had to undergo an interview and a trial period of two days. My ‘employer’, with a great deal of difficulty, has decided to take on a slave. However, they inform me that ‘this is not a ‘nine-to-five job’ and that I must show initiative. Alongside my duties – booking appointments, greeting customers – I have been given two tasks that are ‘above and beyond’ my station: I must reorganise a filing cabinet and create graphics to communicate how eyesight works to children. I reiterate: I am unwaged and my ‘employers’ will own all intellectual property that I have produced under their ‘care’.

My ‘boss’ gave me the details of his business plan last week. It involves keeping labour costs incredibly low: the short-term allocation of free labour from the Jobcentre to his establishment is by no means an accident. Slavery, it seems, is simply good business.

PETER THOMPSON

Newcastle


Abolish zero-hours contracts

Nobody, I think, has the idea that working in a fast food restaurant qualifies as a good or enjoyable job. I am an employee of Domino’s Pizza, working in customer service. There are of course the common negative experiences arising from clueless management, rude customers, and the strenuous nature of the work itself. But besides the content of the work, the form of work is a major, and perhaps more hidden and subversive, way in which fast food companies maintain a hold on employees’ lives and continue to dehumanise employees to little more than a commodity. The ill-effects of this have been intensified by the proliferation of ‘zero-hours contracts’.

Zero-hours contracts are sold to the public as being more ‘flexible’ and being able to suit the employment requirements of both businesses and employees. They have allowed fast-food businesses easily to overcome high labour costs in an industry with often-varying labour demands. Those of us who are employed on such contracts, however, are under no illusion about the power imbalances resulting in a workforce forever at the beck and call of their employers, sometimes only given notice of shifts an hour or so in advance, with an unreliable income as hours vary from practically non-existent to overwhelming.

The unpredictability of work and the lack of notice can result in intense isolation as it becomes almost impossible to arrange anything outside work – after all, you might have to suddenly drop everything you’re doing to go to work. The fact that zero-hours contracts often coincide with low (minimum) wages also contributes to this omnipresent wariness, as when you can’t predict the size of your next payslip, even the smallest luxury is tainted with guilt and caution.

Of course, these damaging experiences are of little consequence to management. There is no concern for the comfort or well-being of employees any more than there need be concern for the ‘well-being’ of a pizza. An employee plays the same commodified role to management as the goods they sell or create. The most important factor for the employers is to meet labour cost targets, delivery time targets and so on. Therefore managers make full use of the ‘flexibility’ of being able to call in employees at a moment’s notice, sending workers home even when they’re still needed at the store, and cutting corners by ‘clocking-out’ food before it is made or sent out on delivery. We need to demand the abolition of zero-hours contracts.

ALICIA MAYNES

Nottingham


Political repression in Galiza

Galiza is an oppressed nation of nearly two million people which has managed to preserve its own language and culture. The post-Franco ‘transition period’ paved the way for Spain to become a western capitalist democracy included in the EEC and NATO, by means of denying the right of peoples to self-determination and political repression against those who saw the ‘transition’ as a way to maintain the old oligarchic model. Since then, Galician militants have undergone political assassination, prosecution, torture, communication intercepts, solitary confinement and dispersal of prisoners.

In September 2013, the Spanish High Court conveniently claimed the existence of an armed group called Resistencia Galega, so that from that moment any Galician militant on trial could be accused of ‘terrorism’. At the end of October 2015, military police broke in and arrested nine people in their homes, throwing around the same accusations of ‘glorifying terrorism’ and ‘belonging to an armed group’, although all detainees’ activities just involve open political work in support of the nationalist project. Without any evidence, the judge accepted the police accusations and banned the organisation Causa Galiza for two years.

The persistence of political repression has caused the emergence of groups in solidarity with victims of state repression. Ceivar is a group that campaigns in support of Galician prisoners, organising protests and coordinating with prisoners’ families. For that reason, we congratulate FRFI for the great work in support of those imprisoned for their nationalist and revolutionary ideas.

ERMELINDA BARREIRO

militant for the independence of Galiza, Spain


Fight fracking! Resist eviction!

On 4 December, the longest-running anti-fracking camp, at Upton on the outskirts of Chester, faces eviction. The camp was set up in April 2014 to oppose ‘coal bed methane gas’, the evil twin of shale gas. Dart Energy has a licence to explore for this gas which expires in May 2016.

The camp became known as Upton Community Protection Camp and has huge local support: 85% of local residents in a recent survey were opposed to Dart Energy’s plans for the site. The camp is the longest running anti-fracking camp in the UK and the first to occupy the actual site where the drilling is intended. Residents grow some of their own food and various structures have been built on the site including a Solidarity Tea Hut for communal use. This camp has been, and still is, the only thing preventing iGas from drilling an exploratory fracking well.

On 6 November the High Court in Manchester granted an eviction order giving the campaigners 28 days to leave the site. The eviction can therefore take place anytime after the 4 December 2015.

Since then, campaigners from across the country have come to live on the site, building resistance by constructing towers, tunnels, tree houses, making lock-ons and securing the site to ensure the eviction team do not have an easy time trying to take the site over. Meantime, an adjacent site has also been occupied, just one mile away in Mickle Trafford, as iGas also has plans for this site. So come and learn how to protect this land. Let’s put a stop to this fracking industry everywhere.

JULIET EDGAR

Liverpool


Justice for Sheku Bayoh

The Scottish National Party has been generally unsympathetic and even antagonistic regarding the nationwide campaign for Sheku Bayoh, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Fife earlier this year. Even more so when we compare it to the recent killing of a white school student in Aberdeen, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon showered that pupil’s family with condolences. In contrast Sheku’s family have reached out to a very silent Sturgeon to no avail. In fact SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill has even accused the campaign of creating a ‘poisonous atmosphere’ and declaring an ‘open season of hunting Police Scotland’.

Meanwhile recent evidence that has come to light about one of these officers. PC Alan Paton’s brother-in law, Barry Swan, told the BBC the officer had a violent and racist history. Mr Swan said he had been a witness to the aftermath of a violent rampage by Officer Paton against his own parents. The officer was also known to boast ‘I am a total racist, I hate all blacks’.

So we would ask Police Scotland and the SNP: why is a racist thug allowed to serve in our police force? Why do the SNP refuse to answer our questions? Why was an unconscious man restrained with handcuffs and leg shackles? What really happened to Sheku Bayoh?

AMINA

Dundee

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 248 December 2015/January 2016

 

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