Good Bye from York Stop the Cuts

After a period of online discussion and a final meeting, York Stop the Cuts is coming to a close. In 3 years of existence, we have done a lot, but now is the time to stop and hand over to other groups and projects who will keep the spirit of the group alive whilst bringing in fresh energy. We want to emphasise that this is a positive move, allowing new activities to grow up in our place.

York Stop the Cuts has catalysed to the rejuvenation of York Trades Council and Food Not Bombs York (the folks who feed us on protests), and the formation of York’s Alternative History and York’s Housing Crisis, and played a role in building up York Welfare Campaign and Defend Our NHS York. But deeper than that, the group leaves in its absence a big network of people who remain connected and ready for action. When the EDL threatened York Mosque, many of those connections were in evidence among the familiar faces who showed up.

The small sum of money in our bank account is being passed forwards to York People’s Assembly to support their launch conference on Saturday 12th October. We invite everyone who has supported this group to support that event and the growing group behind it. We also want to highlight these groups for you to stay in touch with:

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Keep Our Libraries Public

love library booksLibrary services are an important part of our community: promoting learning; bringing people together; providing a space for community groups etc. But, did you know that in York the library service is facing a £250,000 cut (10% of the total budget) in 2013/14? The library services in York are already squeezed, not having seen a rise in funding for over a decade.

Still, no library closures have been announced (yet). As a new tactic to help save costs, the council has decided to turn the central York Explore library into a Social Enterprise, and they have started advertising for volunteers. Now, we think volunteering is a very positive thing, but should volunteers be replacing salaried professional staff? And should a Social Enterprise be running a service which should be under the control of the council? No, is the short answer. This is nothing more than Cameron’s ‘big society’ (read: ‘under funded services led by volunteers’).

York Unison, York TUC, York Student Socialists and York Stop the Cuts are all opposing the council’s plans. We kicked off our campaign with an excellent protest outside York Library, where we collected over 900 signatures (read about it on York TUC blog).

Our petition to the council is online, sign it here.

We think the Labour council can do more to oppose the cuts. For example, they are not putting real effort into collecting and allocating council tax funds from empty homes in York. Speaking in response to Osborne’s autumn statement, deputy leader Councillor Simpson-Laing said: “The £600,000 to £700,000 extra on top of the cuts we were already expecting to make in the year 2014-15 is going to be devastating.” And James Alexander on twitter has said: “I can assure you people in York do not like cuts”. By joining the newly created Councillors Against Cuts network, our councillors can show they are serious about fighting this ConDem government. If we don’t form a substantial opposition in councils, trade unions, schools, colleges and on the street, this government and the next will only continue to get away with pleasing their rich palls.

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Scroungers, shirkers, strivers, workshy… all horribly insulting names certain wealthy individuals insist on calling the poorest in society

…but none of it is founded. York’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation has recently completed a study into work and poverty, which exposes that the problem isn’t motivation to work, but the ‘low-pay, no-pay’ jobs market. The Guardian article on the study reads:

“A new study… which set out to see whether cultures of worklessness helped explain long-term unemployment in families across generations, dispels any notion that this is the case.”

The study focuses in on families where long-term worklessness spans two generations. Such families account for less than 1% of workless households. They interviewed the families in depth and concluded:

“The long-term worklessness of parents in these families was a result of the impact of complex, multiple problems associated with living in deep poverty over years (particularly related to ill health). In an already tight labour market, these problems combined to place them at the back of a long queue for jobs.”

Lets contrast the Guardian with an article on a similar subject from the Telegraph: Seven ‘workshy’ benefits claimants fail to turn up for first day at work (Telegraph, 26 Apr 2012)

The Telegraph concentrates on bashing “work shy layabouts”, who “did not want to come out in the rain only to lose their payouts.” Mr Carl Cooper, quoted in the article, appears unaware that those who are fired through misconduct, such as not turning up for work, cannot continue to claim Job Seekers Allowance for a set period. The article reserves the revelation that the DWP “could not confirm the seven people were benefits claimants” to the very end.

But what exactly is going on here (other than farce)? The article also states:

“Workers at the company receive a basic retainer of £100 a week initially…”

The company in question is based in Canterbury, Kent. The average weekly rent in Canterbury for one room shared accommodation (the cheapest type) is £75.96/week, which if on £100/week leaves only £24.04 for bills and food. Many people in this sort of accommodation fail to claim housing benefit when between jobs; it is easy to see how people can end up getting pushed into poverty.

It’s true however, that there is a small minority who take all they can and give nothing back – people who believe it’s right to avoid as much tax as possible and claim as many benefits as possible. Notable examples include: George Osborne, a millionaire who shamelessly collects child benefit; the directors of Starbucks UK, who avoided paying all corporation tax for the last three years despite making profits; and Boris Johnson who defended Starbucks’ contempt of the tax system. These are the ones who really are guilty for indulging in a culture of greed.

But what can we do about it? York Stop the Cuts exists to challenge the status-quo that it is the poor who are to blame. It is bizarre that the poorest in society are the ones being made to pay for a financial crisis caused by the notoriously rich finance sector. But the government cannot operate without popular support. If we work together we can change it.

The first thing you can do, right away, to help stop the madness, is sign the WOW petition. This is a petition to stop the War On Welfare, please see the petition site for more info.

Also, we need help to organise and run campaigns, and we really appreciate input, even if it’s just ideas. Please consider joining our newsletter list to be kept up to date with what we’re doing (one email per week). You can email us at yorkrighttowork@gmail.com or even give us a call on 07980 316 414. Our Upcoming Events page contains the date of our next organising meeting. And do feel free to ask any questions.

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Members of York Stop the Cuts protesting against workfare outside of Tescos, Merchantgate, York. Workfare is a forced work scheme paid for by the tax payer which exploits the unemployed, making profits for large companies like Tescos. The protest was part of a week of action called by the national Boycott Workfare campaign.

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Boycott Workfare York

workfare-montageThis article is in support of our Boycott Workfare protest, Sat 15th, 12pm, Ryedale House, Piccadilly, York, YO1 9PE. Please invite friends to our Boycott Workfare Facebook event.

Boycott Workfare has called for a week of action (8th-15th) against companies which exploit unpaid labour. Workfare is part of 5 programmes, started by the previous Labour government and expanded by the current government. Here are the 3 worst examples:

The Work Programme: Jobseeker’s allowance claimants are referred to private companies, who organise mandatory unpaid work placements for 6 months. Refusal can mean the loss of benefits. Acceptance means working full time jobs, for jobseekers allowance. This is in effect, working a full time shift for £14 a day.

Mandatory Work Activity: The Job centre can order claimants to work for up to 30 hours a week, for a period of 4 weeks without pay. This works out as working for £2.36 an hour.

Community Action Programme: This will be rolled out nationally in 2013. It claims to focus on community service work, but provides cheap, unpaid labour to replace low level public sector jobs that will be cut by councils due to austerity.

Not a government scheme to lower unemployment

Throughout all of this, someone who could be spending their time looking for a job is forced into working full time, or living without the £71 a week afforded to them by Jobseeker’s Allowance. While in a full time job, it becomes harder to edit and check CVs, to phone companies, to attend interviews or to go on training. This is not a government scheme to lower unemployment. The Department of Work and pensions own research report states:

“There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting time available for job search and failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers. Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”

This is a government scheme to provide cheap labour for companies, and allows them to get away with not hiring new workers. It threatens existing workers’ conditions – when a company can get employees for free from the government, why bother listening and acting on an employee’s or union’s concerns?

boycott-workfareAcross York, there are national and international companies which exploit unpaid labour, provided to them by the government. This is morally repulsive, and York Stop the Cuts fully supports Boycott Workfare’s call for a week of action. Join us on our march across York’s city centre on the 15th.

Meet Sat 15th, at 12pm, Ryedale House, Piccadilly, York, YO1 9PE. Facebook event: Boycott Workfare.

For more information on workfare, see www.boycottworkfare.org/

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Protesting works – “Paying tax is not a voluntary choice…”

montageUK Uncut’s nationwide protest certainly sparked off something, with Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, saying “Taxation for big companies, or for anyone in society, can’t be, and mustn’t be, a voluntary arrangement”. Earlier in the week, Starbucks offered to pay 20 million “above what is currently required by tax law.” Alexander added: “Paying tax is not a voluntary choice, it is not something you can just chose to do willy nilly because you think it will please your customers, it is an obligation.” [1]

The big win here, is not that we embarrassed Starbucks, but that we have helped to move the Government. By raising the issue with Starbucks in the mainstream media, the Government is forced to take our side, or be complicit over large-scale corporate tax dodging – not a popular position in a time of austerity.

Protesting works, please join us for more this Saturday 15th over workfare.

For more info on the issue surrounding Starbucks, see: Protest against Starbucks, *still* corporate tax dodgers

[1] BBC – Tax not ‘voluntary’, Alexander tells firms

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From tax dodgers to tax profiteers

Today we are protesting outside of Starbucks on Coney St, York, from 11am ’till 2pm, against Starbucks’ tax avoidance. Yes, Starbucks are still avoiding their tax.

By shaming Starbucks into paying taxes we can shame the Government into collecting taxes, the only sensible way to fix the deficit. 120 billion, the value of the deficit, is the amount of tax revenue avoided, evaded or uncollected every year according to Tax Research UK.

workfare4_smallMoving from tax dodgers to tax profiteers. Next Saturday, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, we’ll be protesting outside companies which use workfare.

Join us to protest on Saturday 15th, at 12pm, outside Ryedale House, Piccadilly, York, YO1 9PE, we will be going on a tour of York city centre.

Please invite your friends to our Facebook event: Boycott Workfare Protest – York.

**UPDATE** We now have a better written and longer post on workfare.

Continue reading

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Protest against Starbucks, *still* corporate tax dodgers

refuge-fullThis Saturday 8th December York Stop the Cuts and York Food Not Bombs are giving away free tea, coffee, cake and hot chocolate to protest against tax dodging by big corporations like Starbucks. You can find us on Coney St, York outside Starbucks from 11am ’till 2pm.

Our protest is part of a nationwide demonstration called by UK Uncut. Please share our Facebook event and invite everyone: www.facebook.com/events/267563653367133

Unlike Starbucks who don’t care about the welfare of people, we’ll be giving all the donations we receive on the day to IDAS, a charity who work in York helping people suffering from domestic abbuse.

But didn’t Starbucks just announce they would pay their tax?

It’s true that Starbucks are saying they won’t claim the tax refunds they get from moving all their profits outside the UK. BUT they haven’t showed any signs of dismantling their complex setup of sister companies which exist only for them to dodge tax. So do we believe them? They may pay some token tax, but paying tax just when you feel like it (or when UK Uncut force you into it), is not addressing the issue; they’re just wriggling out!

Not the full story

Starbucks don’t like to give up their tax free profits, reported to be roughly 50 million. In order to finance their kind offer of 20 million in tax over the next two years, they have cut paid lunch breaks, sick leave and maternity benefits for their 7,000 coffee-shop workers in the UK. Saying that Starbucks are now paying their taxes is not giving the full story, Starbucks are now attacking the welfare of their workers. And this sort of cut to working conditions is not unusual from a private sector which will do everything it can to maintain profits as usual during a time when people are having to spend less.

So, please come and join us for a coffee outside Starbucks, and together we can keep upping the pressure until Starbucks and the other major offenders start paying their taxes!

For more info, please see UK Uncut’s statement on Starbucks’ ‘holow promises’.

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