TELL GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL: NO TO ATOS, NO TO WORKFARE
Nick Durie argues that Glasgow City Council must be held to account for their appalling decision to have Atos as chief sponsor of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, as well as their support for workfare programmes.
NIck Durie is a community activist in 'Power in the Community'. He is organising a campaign called 'Committee 100' which aims to hold Glasgow City Council to their 100 election promises.
“Notes the Workfare scheme introduced by the Westminster Government that forces people on welfare to work without payment under threat of loss of benefits; Believes that this undermines paid employment, genuine volunteering and the social welfare system, and does not benefit individuals or communities, but perpetuates poverty; Resolves not to take part in any Workfare or other forced labour scheme.” – Edinburgh City Council motion
Last month Edinburgh decided it was not going to participate in workfare. Labour and the SNP followed up their parliamentary opposition in to the welfare reform bill by backing a Green motion to divest The Council of any relationship with the UK Government’s workfare programme.
I recently went to a conference where both Cllr Gordon Matheson and council executive Liz Cameron stated that Glasgow was “the real capital of Scotland”. Certainly the text of Labour’s apparent opposition to ‘welfare reform’ in Glasgow could not be any clearer if the party’s 100 Promises manifesto is anything to go by.
Promise 74: “Labour will work with social housing, financial advice providers, the third sector and faith groups to protect our people from the impact of the Coalition Government’s unjust welfare reforms.” Nonetheless Glasgow City Council is participating in the work programme. Evidence is mounting of widespread use of benefits claimants being forced to work as gardeners, drivers, and GCSS security workers, although The Council is anxious to avoid talking about this (presumably because it would look like hypocrisy).
This enthusiasm for workfare is not the only way The Council is in breach of Promise 74, however. As yet there is no sign of the grand coalition Labour bosses claimed to seek to build in May to oppose ‘welfare reform.’ Indeed the visible signs are of an embrace of welfare cuts, at the most public level. No event has come to symbolise the Labour Council’s strategy more than its efforts to secure and deliver the 2014 Commonwealth Games. This event has been central both to the City’s marketing strategy, and to its economic goals. Without getting into whether this is a sensible policy, or whether it is being carried out in an effective or enlightened way or not, the Games has been seen by The Council as a way to revitalise the City’s East End, and place Glasgow on a world stage. Council bosses took no chances, and put Scotland’s most powerful businessman in charge of the Games – Green Investment Bank supremo, boss of Scottish and Southern Energy, asset stripper private equity boss, Robert Haldane Smith (or as the man who lords it over his private island in the Firth of Clyde has liked to style himself since Labour gave him a peerage, Lord Kelvin). He has taken a decision that utterly flies in the face of Promise 74. He has brought in ATOS to sponsor the Games.
ATOS have been administrating the UK Government’s cuts to welfare. They have punitively struck thousands of vulnerable and disabled people off the welfare roll with their fantastic “work capability assessments,” declaring cancer patients, heart transplant patients, the terminally ill, and the mortally sick ‘fit for work,’ sending many to an early grave, and forcing thousands to spend their last living days penniless and starving. There is no greater symbol of what is wrong with this country than what is being done to kick the crutches away from the poor, the disabled and the dying.
The testament of ATOS’ own staff has recently come to light, and it shows the inhumanity of the system that they have put in place. Here is how one ATOS worker describes what goes on:
The staff are broken beyond usefulness. They are too few, with the wrong training, cobbled together from various departments after cut backs and reshuffles, with no direct chain for the administration. Each claim can pass through more hands than a gift at a children’s pass the parcel game. No two members of staff can do each others job and no one person knows how to process the claim from start to finish. The senior management are completely ineffectual.
Meaning that when a member of the public phones to enquire about their claim they cant effectively be dealt with. Every call will get a different result to the same enquiry.
They are under that much pressure to input the data that it doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, who cares if someone gets too much or too little, or lost in the system, they are only a stat. Their life may be ruined, but the staff can’t care, they just have to type, type, type, and hope that someday they’ll get on top of it.
I found a member of staff crying today, they had just processed a claim for somebody who was just about to discover they had been denied their ESA. The client had just survived a heart transplant, an actual full heart transplant. Atos disagree with the surgeons and doctors, and have deemed this person, “fit to work”.
As a result of Lord Kelvin’s brutal decision, this is now Labour’s chosen Commonwealth Games “partner” – the company they have chosen to stand alongside them in showcasing Glasgow to the world. Do we really want the image of Glasgow to be mired in the image of the dead and the callous?
That is why the community campaign (dubbed the Committee of 100) which aims at holding The Council to their 100 Promises is calling on Council leader Gordon Matheson to slap down the jumped up peer. The ‘Laird of Inchmarnock’ has gone too far, and his decision risks tarnishing the image of the City of Glasgow. It also flies in the face of stated Labour policy.
On Monday the 3rd of December across the UK people will be gathering to remember the victims of ATOS. An early day motion in the UK Parliament calls for the day to be an official day of remembrance. The Committee of 100 has called a demonstration to coincide with the day of remembrance. We are asking Gordon Matheson to join with us and to slap down this spiv. We will be meeting, with copies of Labour’s promises, outside the City Chambers at George Square on Monday the 3rd of December, at 11:30am. We would ask everyone who opposes the ATOS regime, and workfare to join with us. We must not allow Glasgow to be tarnished in the eyes of the world.