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A Message From The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network

January 31, 2015

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SUWN ACTIVIST ARRESTED IN ARBROATH JC WHILST REPRESENTING BENEFIT CLAIMANT

SUWN DEFENCE CAMPAIGN MEETING, WEDNESDAY 4TH FEBRUARY, THE CLUBBIE, RAGLAN STREET, FROM 7PM

PROTEST DEMO, ARBROATH JC, THURSDAY 5TH FEBRUARY, FROM 1PM

Tony Cox, an experienced activist with SUWN in Dundee was arrested in Arbroath yesterday whilst representing a highly vulnerable female benefit claimant, suffering from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was also being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. On Monday, after we were approached by D, we accompanied her into a meeting with her JC advisor, where we asked for a meeting to re-negotiate her claimant commitment. This was agreed to, and a meeting was set for Thursday at 10.40am. Tony had travelled through to Arbroath confident that the meeting would go smoothly, as it was pretty much an open and shut case. However, a few minutes into the meeting, and it became apparent that the advisor did not want to address the two major issues of concern to D, UJM and here onerous claimant commitment. Tony intervened at this point to underline what had already been addressed in a written statement that was handed over at the beginning of the meeting, that D wished to withdraw from UJM and to decrease substantially the number of job search activities she was required to undertake. The response of the advisor was that it was a requirement of all claimants to sign up to UJM, which is not true, and that it was therefore not open for discussion. Tony then asked the advisor to produce the DWP regulation where signing up to UJM was a requirement. The advisor replied that she could not produce the regulation, and when Tony continued to ask that the issue of UJM be discussed, the advisor suggested that he take the issue up with the manageress of the JC, whilst she continued with the meeting with D. Tony reminded the advisor that D had asked him to represent her, and he advised D to accompany him to meet with the manageress.

This meeting was even more frustrating with the manageress again insisting that UJM was not up for negotiation, and Tony, again, asked her to provide confirmation within the DWP regulations that this was the case. The manageress took grave exception to Tony’s repeated attempts to discuss the two major issues that D wanted addressed, and also suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep being present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manageress, she replied to the manageress by saying that she would not attend another meeting without Tony being present. At this point the attitude of the manageress turned even frostier and she finally demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting was brought to an end when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further.

Tony was arrested after he left the JC. He has been charged with threatening behavior, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest. His bail conditions forbid him with having any contact with D, who is a witness, and he is also forbidden from going into or making contact with Arbroath JC until the case comes to trial, which has been set for 25th February at Forfar Sheriff Court. This is a serious case for Tony personally, but it also has massive repercussions for welfare rights activists and groups throughout the country. The fundamental right of benefit claimants to representation is being challenged along with the right of welfare groups to conduct their work. This case should be taken up by the wider progressive movement, and we urge all readers to show their support. The SUWN will be organising a defence campaign meeting this Wednesday and protest demo outside Arbroath JC this coming Thursday. We urge you to show your solidarity and to fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate anti-sanctions campaigners and groups.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 31, 2015 1:12 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

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