Anti workfare campaigners swooped on four Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh on 3rd March, blockading them all and turning away customers and a delivery lorry. Salvation Army managers were visibly rattled as a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN blocked the entrance to their shops.
At the Bruntsfield Place shop the Salvation Army manager threatened: “I’m one of the more serious managers. I’ll get a group of people to come and kick your heads in if you don’t move from in front of my shop.” The demonstrators from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty maintained their blockade of the entrance and shortly afterwards turned away a lorry from Nathans Wastesavers textile recycling company. Animated debate continued in the street outside the shop as a pro-workfare passer-by was berated by another passer-by who recounted his experiences in the local Salvation Army hostel, where he said the management took half of residents’ benefits to pay for their accommodation.
The blockade of the Forrest Road Starvation Army shop was particularly successful, only 2 people entering the shop in a street teeming with lunch-time passers-by. At the large Earl Grey Street charity shop a Salvation Army worker pushed one of the protestors from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) in a vain attempt at intimidation. Here as at the other shops panic-stricken management phoned desperately for assistance which never came. The police were one step behind the protestors all day, and were totally unable to prevent any of the four blockades.
At the Newington Road store the manager claimed they didn’t use workfare at that shop. Unfortunately for her one of the demonstrators – who had seen the protest and stopped to join in – had a friend who had been forced to work there for nothing only weeks earlier. He had ended up being sanctioned. Reaction from people passing at all the shops was overwhelmingly positive, one woman recounting how she had worked for Shetland Council for six months unpaid, all the time being promised a job – which never materialised.
The Salvation Army are a notorious user of government slave labour schemes both locally and UK-wide. In Edinburgh Mandatory Work Activity provider learndirect have hinted they are their main user and ECAP demonstrated at the Salvation Army’s Leith Walk shop in December in solidarity with a claimant ordered to undertake four weeks unpaid labour there.
An ECAP spokesperson said: “With the new Community Work Placement scheme starting in April we are stepping up our direct action against workfare exploiters with a UK-wide week of action from 29 March – 6 April. We urge all charities and employers to boycott this exploiting scheme and all work-for-your-benefits programmes. We appeal to all workers, especially in the voluntary sector, to pressure their employer to boycott workfare. And we appeal to the unemployed and all claimants to join us to make the workfare schemes unworkable.”
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty | www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk | email@example.com
Let the Salvation Army know what you think of their involvement in workfare. Edinburgh City Salvation Army | firstname.lastname@example.org