esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Wed, 8 May 1996 06:00:42 +0200



On 18th April activists (or PANSIES -
Political Activists Not- Seeking
Employment Satisfactorily - as some call them)
of the unemployed central Manchester campaign
against the introduction of the Job Seekers
Allowance in October, took over Cheetham
Hill Job Centre. For two hours business at the
Job Centre was disrupted, while two dozen
marauding PANSIES circled the employment
exchange inciting Cheetham Hill claimants,
heckling management and urging staff to
black the implementation of the Job Seekers
This Job Centre pantomime followed a
report in the last issue of Freedom about the
activities of the manageress, Ms Joan
Bainbridge. Ms Bainbridge has been accused
of hectoring claimants and boasting that she
had "put more people off benefits than any
other manager in the North West". Since our
report Ms Bainbridge is said to have taken
early retirement.
Mr Geoffrey Davis is the new zoo-keeper of
what looks like becoming a Cheetham Hill
bear-garden bequeathed to him by Ms
Bainbridge. Conversations with claimants at
the Cheetham Hill Job Centre seem to conrlrm
the view that it was in danger of becorning a
hell-hole. Since the beginning of April this Job
Centre has been one of several used by the
government to inflict pilot schemes for the
coming JSA on unsuspecting claimants, and
for this reason it is now being targeted by the
local PANSIES.

@)uring the demonstration Mr Davis, the
maIlager, was photographed being cuddled by
a class war militant. When a manager asked
@e unemployed activists inside the Job Centre
to move outside, one retorted: "Don't let these
bastards bully you!" This met with mass
applause among the claimants present.
The JSA seems to threaten to become a poll
tax on the poor and will cut thousands of
claimants off benefits. It is as if the govern-
ment has thrown @ stone into a pool, which is
fast spreading ripples and igniting discontent.
One middle-aged claimant told an
unemployed activist that she had been forced
to apply for five jobs a fortnight, and that if
she didn't produce written evidence of her Job
Search she would be stopped from signing-on
and deprived of benefits.
When later the manager Mr Davis was asked
over the telephone if this condition was
legitimate, he replied that this condition was
not a properly authorised procedure - failure
to produce evidence of a Job Search should
not prevent a claimant from signing-on. The
suspicion is that some functionaries at Job
Centres are operating a confidence trick upon
claimants by making them believe that they
are forced to comply with a system of Job
Search, etc., which is not yet backed by law.
If this is taking place at Cheetham Hill or
elsewhere, then it is seriously unprofessional
conduct by staff, and the staff unions - if they
have 'owt about them - ought to ensure that
both staff and management obey the law.
If there has been any impropriety at
Cheetham Hill Job Centre under a previous
regime, then it is for Mr Davis to ensure that
good and proper practices are enforced in
future. The Manchester campaign against the
Job Seekers Allowance will, no doubt, be in
watching his progress with interest.

Since his run-in with the PANSIES during
their Job Centre occupation, Mr Davis shows
signs of being more than a little nervous. After
consulting with his superiors, he did entertain
a meeting with some of the activists at which
he claimed he was only carrying out his duty.
People present report that he was overwhelmed
by the attention his office was getting.
Since then he has had time to recover his
composure, and in a telephone conversation
with an unemployed activist he proclaimed
"It is illegal to mount a demonstration inside
a public office - this is contrary to the Public
Order Act". Clearly Mr Davis and his cronies
in the employment service, having been taken
by surprise during the take-over of his office
last month, are now trying to re-assert their
authority. He did refuse to give the reference
to what section of the Pubiic Order Act he had
in mind. And, as I write, Mr Davis's office is
involved in a public relations stunt by sending
a spokesman to explain the working of the
JSA to a function organised by the Citizen's
Advice Bureau at Great Ancoats in central
Each week now seems to bring with it reports
of new groups being formed in the fight against
the Job Seekers Allowance. Next month it is
expected that Huddersfield will form a group
to campaign against the JSA (the projected
date of this meeting is 10th May). The
Tameside Unemployed Workers Alliance is
fielding four candidates in next month' s local
elections in a bid to publicise the campaign
against the JSA and oppose benefit cuts.*
There seems to be some confusion about
which Job Centres are operating the JSA pilot
schemes. One report I was given was that the
Levenshulme Job Centre on Matthews Lane,
Manchester 12, was involved in the project,
but when I rang them I was told that this was
not the case. When I further asked if they
could help me locate which other centres in
Manchester were operating the JSA pilot
schemes, they demanded my name and which
organisation I represented. Then someone with
aNorth Country accent told me that Cheetham
Hill office had just finished doing a test
scheme, but claimed this had been "nothing
special". It was also said that there were no
other JSA pilot projects in progress in the area.

Despite the concern about the Job Seekers
Allowance, which is becoming widespread@
there are those who feel that the unemployed
are not angry- enough. Perhaps we are just
hearing the warning creaks before the whole
house collapses.
The government pretends there is no problem.
No problem of poverty because many people
have cars, video recorders and telephones. But
what do you do when the roof leaks? When a
wall sags through lack of pointing? Or wet rot
threatens through lack of heating? What do the
long-term unemployed do, then, on fony-odd
pound a week? It hardly covers the cost of a
new pair of shoes. Anybody who has been
there knows - pawn the car, sell what you can
at a car boot sale and wait for the telephone to
be cut off, only to be followed, in the worst
scenarios, by the electric supply being cut off.
- Recently unemployment statistics showed a
rise of 6,800 after an apparent two and a half
year fall in figures. That's if you believe the
government figures, which some think are
Neil Merrick, in the journal People
Management, has asked: "Why, with so many
big UK companies downsizing, did it take
over two years for official unemployment to
increase?" In February the number out of work
and claiming benefit rose to 2,213,600. The
government does a claimant count, but not
everyone signs-on when they are out of work.
Pamela Meadows, director of the Policy
Studies Institute, claims that up to 7,000,000
people of working age have no jobs. This
figure of seven million unemployed includes
young adults who stay in full-time education
until their mid-twenties, and men aged over 50
who, faced with unemployment, retire early
rather than face a career change.
Pamela Meadows notes with concern the
squeeze of the working population into the
25-50 age group, and the departure of the
experienced employees from the national
workforce. Since the late 1980s, she claims, it
has been seen as a sign of success for
employers to announce redundancies. When
the bosses force through a redundancy
package, she says: " Their share price goes up
because it' s seen as management getting a grip
on the cost base, but it may mean they have no
control over the cost base at all".
Today, of course, it's not just blue-collar
workers in manufacturing who are being hit.
Middle management, the service sector and,
since the turn of the year, large numbers of
financial service staff and those in the private
utilities, have either been dispatched or told
that their jobs are at risk. Banks have declared
massive profits to accompany mass
redundancies. BIFU, the banking union,
claims there have been 120,000 lost jobs since
1990 in the banking sector.
The unemployed action groups are operating
in an environment of a shrinking labour force
nationally. The government is determined to
get benefit costs under control, but this may
stir-up uncontrollable forces among the
unemployed. No doubt some of the weakest
claimants will suffer most. Fortunately for
over a year the libertarian left has been in the
forefront of the struggle against the JSA. The
next six months leading up to the full government
implementation of the Job Seekers Allowance
in October will be critical. Successful
resistance will require full commitment by all
sections of the libertarian left.
Mack the Kl@ife