Letters - FRFI 268, February/March 2019

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

Universal credit – universal outrage

In Newcastle we’ve been suffering under Universal Credit since 2015 when single adults making their first claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance became the guinea-pigs for the pilot service. We’ve had full-service UC since 2017. Whilst out campaigning with the RCG I’ve met so many people affected by lack of internet access, intolerable waiting times and rent arrears. I’m a mental health care worker and so many of the people I work with have struggled to jump through the hoops to apply – first online, then the phone-call, then the appointment, all within strict time frames otherwise the application becomes void and you have to start again.  I am one of the women who has faced cuts to my UC because of changing pay-dates – I have worked part time since having a baby and every time my payday falls on a weekend, I get paid the Friday beforehand. UC counts this as being paid twice in one month and so I get next to nothing for the next month’s payments.

You never make it back the month after because UC is capped, so every time this happens I lose £200 at least. Worse still, UC assumes I haven’t been paid at all the following month and an alert is created that I’m out of work, triggering phone and face to face interviews for them to ‘get tough’ on me – despite the fact I’m consistently employed three days a week. I have to explain to job centre staff over and over again the situation – finally some of them get it but all they say is ‘it’s the system, there’s nothing we can do’. So, I salute the four single mothers who won a challenge on UC’s pay date interpretation at the High Court in January, they alongside all the other claimants and campaigners battling the new system show – it can’t be fixed and should be scrapped!



Repopulate the Carpenters Estate!

As the temperatures drop and homelessness rises, people are dying on the streets in Britain, the fifth richest country in the world. Over 440 homeless people died on the streets or in temporary accommodation in Britain in the past year. In Newham, east London, where Focus E15 campaign is active, the Carpenters Estate has over 400 empty homes. Newham has the worst homelessness rate in Britain according to the November 2018 Shelter report, with 14,500 people in temporary accommodation. The Labour Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and her council, now in office for ten months, have said that ‘housing is one of the top priorities to tackle head on’, yet the Carpenters Estate remains empty. The tendering out process that existed under Robin Wales, thr previous Mayor, has been put on hold, but the fate of the estate and the residents still hangs in the balance. The Mayor is leading on a consultation process with residents, however, none of the hundreds of people decanted are being consulted with. The pledge is for 50% of any new homes to be ‘affordable’, but that term is meaningless and we demand 100% council housing.

Last October Focus E15 campaign met Deborah Heenan, the Major Projects Director for Newham Council who is leading on the Carpenters Estate redevelopment. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was Strategy Director at Berkeley Homes in 2007-08, the company responsible for the Woodberry Downs Estate regeneration in Hackney that reduced the number of council homes; from 2012 she has been Director of Wichelstowe in Swindon, the largest housing scheme built on public land in Britain, and from 2014, she has been the CEO of Forward Swindon, handed responsibility by Swindon Conservative council for the ‘regeneration’ of Swindon Town Centre.

Don’t wait and see what happens, join the fight back!

Focus E15 (www.focusE15.org) campaign has a weekly Saturday street stall and the next public meeting is being held on the Carpenters Estate on Saturday 2 February.

Hannah Caller

East London

G4S forced out of asylum housing – the struggle continues

The Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF) is delighted to learn that G4S has not been awarded the Home Office contract to continue housing Asylum Seekers in the North East of England. MAJF has campaigned steadfastly against G4S and their local sub-contractors Jomast for their shocking mismanagement of asylum housing. We have protested about and drawn public attention to forced bedroom sharing, overcrowding for women and children, bedbugs, black mould and general disrepair. We stand in solidarity with migrants’ organisations in South Yorkshire, Teesside, and the Humber, whose dogged and creative campaigns have helped force G4S from their homes and neighbourhoods. Together, we have shown that the collective voices of asylum seekers and campaigners can achieve real gains in our communities. Mears group will now take over the contract for our region, while they state their primary goal is ‘to make a positive difference to the people we serve’ they remain a private company, with a profit of £20.5m in 2018. We will continue to campaign for our demands:

  • End forced bedroom sharing – one room – one person!
  • End overcrowding in mother and baby hostels – one house – one family!
  • Scrap the subcontract
  • End forced moves!
  • Decent homes for asylum seekers – Decent homes for all!

Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (Tyneside)

Boycott in defence of Dundee workers!

In response to the unfair treatment of a bar worker in Sandy’s Bar in Lochee, the regulars and local community decided to boycott the bar. The boycott lasted almost two months and it eventually broke the new owners. The persecuted worker got his job back after someone else stepped in to take over the bar. This is a small but inspiring example of what community power can achieve.

The same unity is needed for the former Brassica restaurant workers. They lost their jobs in October 2018, when the restaurant was closed, but they are still owed thousands of pounds in wages, holiday pay and tips. On 17 January 2019 the workers, organised in the Unite union hospitality branch, protested against the decision of Dundee City Council’s licensing board to grant the former Brassica boss Dr Rami Sarraf a licence to open a new restaurant. Showing their true colours, Police Scotland decided not to investigate Dr Sarraf for not paying his workers and instead arrested a protester!

The former workers are calling for a Tayside-wide boycott of Dr Sarraf’s dental practices (all related businesses of Dentana Ltd) and his new Brasserie Ecosse restaurant, at 4 Shore Terrace. Please also email the leader of the SNP Dundee council, John Alexander (john.alexander@ dundeecity.gov.uk)  to protest against the council’s decision to allow this openly exploitative boss to continue business in the city.

Rami Sarraf – pay your staff!

Dominic and Ruby


Red Seasons greetings

I send all FRFI comrades and all your close people warm, positive, hopeful, healthy Red Seasons Greetings!  And let us all work for and stand fast for a 2019 of some real progress, some real revolutionary change that so many people and our planet need!

Hope everyone is feeling and doing well. Keep up your very good and important work. Many people here look forward to the news and information in every issue of FRFI, besides me of course!

You may have seen some information about me seeing my first parole board (after 34 years of captivity) this past October.  My hearing went better than I expected but I still have not received my parole decision. I probably will before Christmas (I am writing this on 9 December).  Well, it will be what it is, and my life and the struggle will continue.  I just hope it will be a good decision.

Red regards to all

Jaan Laaman #10372-016

USP McCreary

PO Box 3000, Pine Knot, KY 42635, US

Jaan Laaman is a political prisoner serving a 53-year sentence for a series of bombings of US government buildings carried out by United Freedom Front, an anti-imperialist group which was active in the 1970s and 1980s. As we go to press, the outcome of Jaan’s parole hearing is still unknown.


Oxfam inequality report

In January, Oxfam released its annual report into global inequality. According to the report, 26 individuals now own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of humanity. This is a smaller number than the 43 in 2017, which itself was smaller than the 61 in 2016. The world’s 2,200 billionaires saw an increase of $900bn in 2018 (12% annual increase), while the poorest 50% of the world’s population saw their wealth decrease by 11%. In Sub-Saharan Africa extreme poverty is once again increasing, as it is in parts of Latin America following the return of a number of reactionary governments. Behind these statistics lies not just obscene and ever-growing wealth in the hands of a tiny minority, but also untold human misery for growing numbers around the world. Karl Marx wrote in Capital that ‘Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital’ –  the working class. This obscene situation reported by Oxfam is not simply down to ‘greed’ and will not be remedied by tinkering with taxation as Oxfam recommends. Vast inequality is an unavoidable part of the capitalist system, and will only disappear along with that system.

Séamus Padraic



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