Hi everyone, welcome to the first Hands Off Our Homes update of 2015, and an initial list of dates for your diary. (see below). Here’s a summary – if you can help with any of these please contact us.
Thursday 15th Jan- meeting to launch campaign against sanctions and benefit cuts, 6pm Victoria Hotel, Gt George Street
Wednesday 6th Feb – next Hands Off Our Homes organising meeting, 7pm UNISON offices on Woodhouse Lane
Saturday 28th February – street event in town, details to be discussed at Thursday’s meeting
Thursday 19th March – Unite Community national day of action against sanctions, pickets of job centres.
So,could this be the year that groups and campaigns all over the country come together to demand an end to welfare cuts, homelessness, sell-offs of housing and public services, poverty wages and attacks on the sick, disabled and unemployed? The signs are that it may be. Tenants in London are joining together to resist soaring rents, sell-offs to corporate landlords and the elimination of affordable housing across entire boroughs; groups throughout the country are still resisting the bedroom tax, with around half of affected tenants in significant arrears; and alongside the existing movement to get rid of unfair ESA assessments and cuts to disability benefits, a movement is coalescing around the sanctions-backed conditionality in the benefits system which is literally starving claimants whilst enforcing low-waged, insecure and exploitative work. There’s an election around the corner, and whilst we know – regardless of outcome – that this won’t be the end of our struggles, it is an opportunity to try to change the terms of debate: the major parties must not be allowed to get away with running campaigns based on punishing and demonising claimants. So…..
This Thursday, at 6pm in the Victoria Hotel (the “Vic”) we are holding a meeting to bring together people, groups and organisations who want to build a campaign against benefits sanctions and other cuts and injustices in the benefits system. Anybody who is interested in playing a part in this is welcome to come along. There are some plans on the table which will need more people to make them happen and be effective; and we also hope that people will bring more ideas. There are many possibilities, from lobbying, using media, holding meetings and doing public outreach, to creative events and demonstrations – so there is a role for everyone whatever their circumstances, skills and social contacts.
We are planning a public street event on Saturday 28th February, and we need people to get involved in planning, publicising and building for this. If you can’t come to Thursday’s meeting please get in touch if you want to get involved. We haven’t decided exactly what will happen yet, but without a doubt we’ll want banners, food and drink, speakers, people to help with advertising and media, and maybe much more….
Unite Community is planning a national day of action against sanctions, which we believe will involve demonstrations at job-centres and perhaps other creative actions around the country. HOOH will be supporting the demonstrations in Leeds. Unite Community is a union branch which is open to people not in waged work, or who work in the home or community (including retired workers). You can join for £2 a month, and it’s a good way to get the concerns of claimants heard within the union movement. You may also want to help at the community centre/advice drop-in which Unite Community is planning – contact us for more on this.
One of the groups hit hardest by draconian cuts to benefits rights are migrant workers and jobseekers. Politicians of all parties are intent on scapegoating migrants for every problem caused by austerity politics and underinvestment in public services – be it housing, health, education or welfare. The last year has seen the welfare rights of migrant workers cut back piece by piece, and even more draconian restrictions are on the way. The government knows that migration is good for the economy: research shows that it creates jobs, and that migrants put in far more in taxes than they take out in services and benefits. But – just as it suits the government and employers to use benefit cuts and sanctions to force people to do insecure work at low wages – so these additional restrictions on their rights make migrants even more vulnerable to being exploited in this way, thereby putting downward pressure on wages and conditions for everyone. So it’s vital for our campaign that we act in solidarity with migrant workers and claimants, demand equality for migrants within the benefits system, and reject all scapegoating which seeks to turn people against each other. To read more about this you can download our flyer Migrants and welfare
You may also like to check out our general flyers on sanctions and workfare: