Monday saw people answering the hastily arranged call out from the Nottingham Anarchist Federation in support of a week of action against Office Angels and ATOS Origins.
Meeting outside the inconspicuous environs of Angel House (next door to Mac), a place I’ve walked past countless times without registering, a group of about eight of us handed out a couple of hundred leaflets to passer-bys in support of the action called by South London Solidarity Federation. These outlined the situation whereby Dan (a member of the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation) had been denied the three days wages rightfully owed to him. Dan had enquired if a timesheet was needed and was expressly told by a member of staff it wasn’t and was even rung at work on his final day by a member of Office Angels. Office Angels then refused to pay him. Pickets around the country informing the public of the shameful employment practices of this agency will continue until he’s paid. We also doubt whether this is an isolated incident and would encourage temporary workers denied payment to get in touch with their local branch of Solfed or the AF.
Public reaction was uniformly good with one older gentleman regally us with stories of English building contractors in Germany and Holland not being paid in the 1970s and the direct action they took to expropriate their owed wages. We also spoke to at a temporary worker coming out the branch and warned them of their practices. Office Angels are aware of the campaign as they already had a notice displayed apologising for their door being locked for the day. In addition when we buzzed the intercom they refused to meet with any of us, but not before saying they knew why we were here. We suspect they also called the police as a couple of PCs soon turned up and quietly kept an eye on us from the opposite pavement. Along with distributing leaflets, employee testimonials in the building lobby were also suitably detourned with them.
This is the second round of pickets after last week’s day of action. This week things have been stepped up with pickets taken place or planned in several locations around London, Leeds, Croydon, Reading, Oxford, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Brighton and Northampton. International sections of the IWA are also being mobilised. This Wednesday also saw a concerted effort to bombard the offending Wimbledon office with as many phone calls and emails as possible. This statement released today by Office Angels indicates they’re already running scared.
After about hour we walked just five minutes up to Stoney Streetin the Lace Market, where the ATOS Healthcare assessment centre is located, to support the call out for a week of action called by Benefit Claimants Fightback. The unassuming back street office didn’t lend itself to mass leafleting but leaflets were distributed when people walked past and were also taped to available surfaces. Despite the location a couple of people were delighted that we were protesting against ATOS and regaled us with tales of the poor treatment and deceit they’d received at their hands. Someone in ATOS obviously isn’t on the ball with informing their staff what was happening this week as we were buzzed through by the unfortunate receptionist into their empty waiting area. This receptionist did seem to be the only person present and when we explained why we were here said she wasn’t allowed to speak to us. We did manage to speak to a claimant and his father exiting his assessment. He thanked us for our presence explained how worried he was about his son’s future and then said he was now off to the Framework housing charity for advice, a local housing service currently being devastated. We encouraged him to appeal and told him 70% were successful with Citizen Advice Bureau (again facing large funding cuts) backing. The centre then hastily closed up for lunch and after ascertaining this was true we headed off, promising to be back.
Atos Origin has a £500 million contract with the Government to carry out ‘work capability assessments’ on all of those claiming Incapacity Benefit. It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. The real purpose is to strip benefits from as many people as possible. This testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. GP’s are ignored in favour of decisions made by Atos Origin’s computer. People have already committed suicide due to the decisions made by Atos. Plans announced for the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance have also revealed that this intrusive testing is likely to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.
Photos taken from the Nottingham Indymedia report