Anti-workfare campaigners occupy offices of a government workfare contractor
Anti-workfare protesters vow to continue their campaign of direct action after storming the offices of a government welfare organisation in Dundee.
Protesters from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network (SUWN) took over an office belonging to Triage in the city’s Albert Square in protest against benefit sanctions and the company’s use of workfare – the UK government’s unpaid work-for-benefits scheme.
Triage, which operates a number of programmes on behalf of the UK government to support unemployed people into work, had to halt its operations until police arrived.
Police removed protesters from the second floor offices but around 10 protesters remained outside calling for an end to "slave labour".
An official statement from the SUWN said: “Triage is central to the punishment regime faced by unemployed workers in Dundee. It is a private company making hundreds of thousands of pounds by adding to the pressures on people already suffering from stress and poverty.
“The draconian rules come from Westminster, but it is companies like Triage that put the rules into action. It is companies like Triage that make sure that the unemployed fill their time with generally useless activities.
“It is companies like Triage that make people work for up to six months without pay. And it is companies like Triage that tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to stop the benefits of anyone who has not fulfilled every task to the letter, so leaving them destitute.
“These are the punishments being meted out to people unable to find work or unable to work. And, as if administering these were not bad enough, Triage has repeatedly failed to pass on crucial messages or send notices of compulsory appointments, so ensuring that even more people get sanctioned.
“A large number of sanctions in Dundee are given because people have failed to come to a meeting at Triage that they were never told about, or only told too late.”
Grace Kennedy, managing director of Triage Central, said she strongly rejected the suggestion anyone is put into pointless or unpaid work.
“We’re very proud of our innovative approaches to employment and training that works both for individuals and the companies looking to employ them,” she said.
“We work with some of the largest employers in the country to offer people who have been unemployed find good, sustainable jobs.
“In Dundee we have had a number of success stories with many people securing work in the construction sector on major local projects and in the hospitality and retail sectors.
“At Triage we specialise in providing support, training, work preparation and job opportunities to help people in receipt of benefits progress back to into work.
“We operate under strict guidelines issued by the DWP and does not have the gift to stop or start anyone’s benefit.”