Campaigners mount protests outside Edinburgh charity shops involved in the UK government's workfare scheme
Anti-workfare demonstrators forced the closure of two Edinburgh charity shops involved in the government's controversial workfare scheme on Saturday.
Protestors from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP), alongside campaigners from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network (SUWN), blockaded the entrance to the Salvation Army shop on Earl Grey Street with a huge banner saying: “If you exploit us we will shut you down” before mounting a similar protets outside the Debra charity shop in the city’s Marchmont Crescent.
Half a dozen police were waiting for the demonstrators at the Salvation Army premises but were unable to break the blockade by around 40 protestors.
Demonstrators briefly occupied Debra’s shop, then completely blockaded it.
Both the Salvation Army and Debra use the free labour of unemployed people compelled to work for their benefits on the mandatory Work Activity scheme, run locally by Learndirect.
Collective direct action can make austerity unworkable - Esther McDonald
Simultaneously protestors besieged the Salvation Army shop in Broughty Ferry where Saturday shoppers were met with a picket.
Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network activists handed out hundreds of leaflets as well as placards including biblical texts such as ‘the labourer is worth of his reward’.
Esther McDonald of Ecap said: "We think the action was very successful. We urge all claimants to contact us and get involved in resisting workfare, sanctions, the attacks on sick and disabled claimants and the whole disgusting war on the poor. Waged or unwaged, we are all under attack and need to resist together. Collective direct action can make austerity unworkable."
Sarah Glynn, secretary of the SUWN, added: ‘Many big employers have been shamed into stopping this exploitation and over 500 charities have signed an agreement to "keep volunteering voluntary" and not participate in government workfare schemes. But so far the Salvation Army seems happy to go on exploiting the very people they were set up to help. The SUWN is planning further protests in front of the Salvation Army and other exploiters of forced labour."
The Salvation Army has defended its position, stating: "Every day we see and experience the benefits people gain from being in work, volunteering or taking part in work experience.
"We strongly believe in offering our support to help people find work and stay in work, and as such, we continue to be involved with the government’s Work Programme scheme.”