Friday, September 28, 2012

Aleida Guevara addresses Miami Five protest

By New Worker

ALEIDA GUEVARA, daughter of the Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara, last Tuesday attended a mass vigil outside the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square, organised to demand the release of the Miami Five.
 A long line of speakers addressed the crowd of several hundred, with trade union activists heavily represented both in the crowd and on the platform.
 They included Billy Hayes of the Communication Workers’ Union, newly-elected TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the giant union Unite,  Eric Roberts (Unison), Christine Blower (NUT), Manuel Cortes (TSSA), Jonathan Ledger (Napo) and Carolyn Simpson (Sertuc).
 The Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s annual Vigil for the Miami Five has become an integral part of the British campaign in support of the Five and, this year, fell a week after the 14th anniversary of their arrest.
 They all called for justice for the Miami Five who were arrested in Florida while working to expose and bring to justice terrorists who were plotting acts of violence and terror against the Cuban people.
 They were convicted of spying in a rigged trial and have been denied the right to see their wives and other family members.
 The campaign to free them is global and in Britain the trade unions have played a crucial role in supporting the campaign led by Cuba Solidarity.
 Frances O’Grady said that she “brought the support of the whole TUC” and declared “we want immediate and unconditional release now”. She said: “I am delighted that the first rally I’m speaking at as general secretary of the TUC is in support of the Miami Five. And she highlighted the irony that the Miami Five remain imprisoned for defending Cuba against terrorism in a country famous for inventing the “so-called War on Terror”.
 Len McCluskey delivered a warning to the US government that they “are not just dealing with 11 million Cubans, they are dealing with the whole of the working class movement throughout the world.
 “We will not allow you to bully and intimidate our Cuban comrades” he said.
 Cathy Jamieson MP called on the crowd to lobby their MP to sign Early Day Motion (EDM) 497.
 The EDM was tabled by Michael Connarty MP and calls for visitation rights to be granted to Olga and Adriana – wives of Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez – who have been unable to see their husbands for 14 years.
 Two progressive trade union lawyers also gave their verdict on the case against the Miami Five, declaring it to be rubbish.
 Doug Christie and Steve Cottingham spoke on behalf of two firms – Thompsons and OH Parsons.
 They referred to recent revelations that the US government paid journalists at the time of the trial to write prejudicial articles – and contextualised the treatment of the Five within a history of state collusion and conspiracy.
 Two musicians, Omar Puente and Rebecca Thorn, sang a number of songs, ending with Hasta Siempre, written as a tribute to Che Guevara.
 Then actors Adjoa Andoh and Andy de la Tour performed an emotive reading of letters exchanged between Rosa Aurora Freijanes and her imprisoned husband Fernando Gonzalez.
 As the light faded, candles were lit and Aleida Guevara took the stage to rapturous applause.
 She echoed previous contributions that we struggle, not just for the Five, but for their brave mothers, wives, children and families. She lamented that their trial and incarceration “violates the legal norms of the United States”.
 Aleida thanked those in attendance – and those in support of the campaign – for their solidarity. “Thank you for your resistance – but we still have to do more. We need to multiply our force. Let’s break the blockade of silence imposed on the truth. As Jose Marti said, bad people triumph when good people sleep.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why communists should be involved in trades councils

The NUT stall at the trades council "Union Village" at the Lambeth  Show

By Anton Johnson

CAPITALISM is being exposed for what it is today. For the first time in recent history we now have large numbers of people in the UK going hungry, hence the sudden rise of “food banks” run by churches, which are set to expand their services with support from local authorities in 2013.
Yet the general populace does not seem to have taken on board the scale of calamity hitting ordinary people. A recent work journey required me to walk through the new Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London and consumerism appeared alive and well with the centre packed on a Wednesday afternoon with people with shopping bags buying things they probably do not need and cannot afford but all in the name of consumerism to keep the system afloat – but it is not.
The TUC has called a national demonstration against austerity for 20th October and this provides an opportunity to talk to people in our communities, estates and workplaces about what is happening. This is important as things are now worse than the first TUC demonstration in March 2011. The main thrust of getting the message out in the communities for 20th October will fall on local trades councils. Trades councils are the face of the trade union movement in the local communities and of late there has been a recognition of their importance and with it a revival.
As communists we can go further and present a clear alternative to a system that is causing misery and fear. Capitalism cannot have a more humane nature. It is about competition and people at the top of the food chain surviving at the expense of others.
But there is an alternative and that is communism. In a few weeks many will be marking the anniversary of the Great October Revolution in 1917, which gave a brief glimpse to the world of an alternative to capitalism, not just on economics but on a social front too by challenging bourgeois morality, organised religion and family structures – giving a taste of what real freedom is.
It’s worth remembering there were other revolutions and attempts to set up alternatives in both Bavaria and Hungary in 1919, both destroyed by private armies of the rich and aristocracy along with  foreign intervention in the case of Hungary. Though even in the brief existence of the Soviet governments in Bavaria and Hungary, quite radical approaches were adopted in an attempt to solve the immediate problems, for example the Bavarian government confiscated homes of the rich in Munich to house the growing homeless in the capital.
Trades councils are for local union activists to come together and link into their communities, they should be for and operating at the grassroots level, not a talking shop or forum for full-time officers or branch secretaries trying to duplicate the work of higher regional trade union structures.
 As communists we should be active in our unions. Supporters of the New Worker and the New Communist Party operate within the labour movement both in trade unions and recognising the importance of the Labour Party at this time as a tool and campaigning for Labour in elections. Many readers and supporters of the New Worker are active members of the Labour Party. Communists, as grassroots activists, should be active in their local trades councils as in other areas of the labour movement in order to be able to communicate and remind people that there is an alternative.
 This is obviously a gradual process as many are not open to such radical change and less likely to be in a current air of fear and insecurity. It will be a long job and, unlike some on the left, we believe the British public is not set for revolution tomorrow. Far from it, but just by simple signposting in discussions and debates can get people thinking.
The New Worker is a tool for this as it is a paper within the movement and as part of the Labour Representation Committee, which many trades councils are affiliated to, so it can be available in trades councils meetings and on trades council stalls along with other related materials. Theo Russell speaking at the Harlow trades council’s recent public meeting, on behalf of the New Communist Party, is a good example.
 The Morning Star is a vital tool, but as a daily paper of the broad Labour Movement it cannot be so focused on an alternative to capitalism for obvious reasons.  The Morning Star and has a different valuable role but the New Worker, as a communist paper within the movement, can be used as an introduction to a radical and bolder alternative that plans for needs and the good of all, as opposed to a system that has no reason and runs at the expense of people and our planet.
Therefore involvement in trades councils is a good opportunity to inject the message of a clear alternative into communities and so for that reason it is important that members of the New Communist Party and other communists are active in trades councils as in other parts of the movement.

Anton Johnson writes in a personal capacity and is the Chair of Lambeth Trades Union Council

Sun shines for our paper!

Andy Brooks takes the collection

by New Worker correspondent

Well it did last Saturday at the Metropolitan supporters group’s annual garden party in Charlton. There was plenty of good food and drink and even the autumn chill could not dampen the discussions that always take place when comrades get together. And they showed their thanks in the traditional manner by putting £95 into the collection tin for the New Worker!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The World after 9/11

Mushtaq Lasharie

By New Worker

THE ELEVENTH anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was marked by a wave of anti-American anger throughout the Muslim world following reports of the production of a film in California that portrayed the prophet Mohammed as a drunken pervert.
            The world we live in has certainly changed since 2001 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether we can all work together to make it a better place for future generations was the topic for a discussion organised by the Third World Solidarity movement in Portcullis House, the modern Parliamentary annex, in London last week.
            It was chaired by Mushtaq Lasharie, a retired Labour activist, and the panel included the Pakistan High Commissioner, the Afghan ambassador, a Tory and a Labour MP, the writer Mark Seddon and Prof Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to London.
            Mushtaq Lasharie spoke about the impact of 9/11 on the Pakistani community in Britain and the perceptions of that community on the street and in the media in the anti-Islamic climate that followed the Al Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
            The two MPs and the international diplomats all spoke in general terms of the need for understanding, moderation and consensus in world affairs and the restoration of the central role of the United Nations in conflict-resolution.
            But it was left to the Palestinian representative to point out that the central problem in the Middle East was the denial of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Arabs and that was due to the intransigence of Israel and its mentor, the United States.
            Third World Solidarity was established in April 1986 in London by a group of political activists and intellectuals. The main object of this movement is to work for peace and tolerance, helping to resolve conflicts through negotiations and diplomatic means.
            Third World Solidarity is against any aggression, whether community based or state represented. It believes that without peace and tolerance to the Third World, improvements or progress in education, health and poverty will be stifled and impossible or at least very difficult to achieve.
            The campaign also works for improving the Human Rights situation around the globe. To achieve these goals Third World Solidarity organises conferences and seminars against aggression, sanctions and violations of human rights.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Where is Labour going?

By New Worker correspondent

WHERE is Labour going? That was the question three labour activists tackled at a meeting in Harlow last week. Rod Truan, a Harlow Labour Councillor and Cabinet member, John Pickard, former editor of Militant and Socialist Appeal activist and Theo Russell from the New Communist Party opened the discussion at a meeting organised by the Harlow Trades Union Council last Wednesday.
Rod Truan, a teacher, pointed out that in the last century Labour was in power for only 23 years and said: “We don’t want to see a Conservative-dominated 21st century,” adding that the very first Labour government set out a Housing Act calling for half a million council houses. He said Labour’s achievements in 1997-2010 included a school building programme, 100 hospitals built, and more textbooks in schools. “But by 2010 Labour had lost the trust of many supporters, for example, by not enabling councils to build new housing.”
 John Pickard drew attention to calls for national strike action at TUC Conference and the Fire Brigades Union motion calling for public ownership of the banks, saying these resulted from rank and file pressure and demands for new policies. He said: “This generation will be the first in 100 years to bequeath a worse standard of living to the next generation,” and said that that large-scale industrial action in Britain was looming.  The issue for Labour, he added, “is not extending the timing of spending cuts, but ending cuts altogether”.
 In his contribution Theo Russell outlined why working class voters should support Labour and the organisational link with the union and cooperative movements, and said the NCP would like the next Labour government to end monetarist austerity policies and restore trade union rights, income tax and the public sector to their pre-1979 position.
He added that the NCP calls for unions not affiliated to either Labour or the TUC to affiliate in order to strengthen the organised working class. In the discussion it was pointed out that 84 per cent of Labour’s income is from trade union members, and it was announced that Harlow Labour Party is submitting a motion to Labour Party conference to re-nationalise the railways.

The lies on the wall

   By Theo Russell

THIS GIANT poster on the Piccadilly Line platform at Earls Court underground station claims that the magnificent achievements of Paralympic athletes from around the world were only possible with the backing of 26 giant corporations.
 Ironically Atos, the global IT and health company, which is reviewing disability living allowance entitlements, is the most prominent.
 Two weeks ago a group of leading British Paralympians spoke out over the Government’s policy to scrap Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and said the benefits are vital to being able live independently.
 All the Paralympian athletes had to wear lanyards with Atos logos. Equestrian Natasha Baker, who won two gold medals at the Paralympics, said: "I have support from lottery fund but definitely, getting around would be a hell of a lot harder without DLA."
 And weightlifter Ali Jawad said: “The Government needs to sort it because a lot of people would suffer for not being eligible for mobility.”
 Further down the list is Dow Chemicals, which produced both napalm and Agent Orange, used in the Vietnam War, and owner of Union Carbide, responsible for the 1984 Bhopal disaster which killed 3,787 people.
 It is a lie and an insult to Paralympians and all those who backed and trained them to claim that their achievements were only possible with support from corporations like Atos and Dow – one of which is attacking disabled people’s rights, and the other responsible for inflicting disabilities on hundreds of thousands of people to this day.

Boris boasts he’ll crush strikers

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson last week challenged Prime Minister David Cameron to introduce new anti-union laws to outlaw strikes after the TUC conference voted to consider the feasibility of a general strike against Cameron’s austerity policy.
 Johnson continues to deny that he is seeking usurp Cameron but he did not rule out a possibility that he will seek a return to the House of Commons before the next mayoral election in 2015.
 Johnson called on Cameron to pull Britain out of the slump by clamping down on strikes, saying it was time to stop the “endless buggeration” that disrupts public services.
 His proposed reforms would outlaw strikes unless a 50 per cent threshold of members take part in a vote; ban all-out strikes among key public-service workers such as paramedics, firefighters and transport staff; force key public services to maintain a basic service and stop pickets intimidating workers.
 Johnson’s proposals come after he was forced to pay huge bonuses to London bus and Tube drivers  to stop them going on strike during the Olympics.

Save our NHS hospitals

by New Worker correspondent

THOUSANDS of people in Sussex and London took to the streets in three separate protests at drastic plans to cut local hospital services, which are already well overloaded and failing cope after previous cuts.
 In north-west London, between one and two thousand people took part in a double march, beginning from Southall Park and Acton Park to converge at Ealing Common, against plans to cut four of the nine Accident and Emergency (A&E) units in the area.
 MPs and councillors joined nurses, patients, relatives and many others to defend the threatened A&E units at Charing Cross, Ealing, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals.
 NHS bosses claim bigger hospitals would improve patient care but it would mean patients, some on the brink of life or death, suffering longer ambulance journeys to bring them to the remaining A&E unites, which would be unable to cope with the extra workload.
 Patients who were not life-or-death emergencies would face very long and painful waits for treatment.
 Labour MPs Steve Pound and Virendra Sharma and Julian Bell, who is the leader of Ealing Council, joined in the march at Southall Park.
 Steve Pound, the MP for Ealing North, said: "It's quite frankly a matter of life and death. It's not a matter of lifestyle choice; it's not a matter of preference or some sort of consumer choice 'We go to this hospital or that hospital'. It's no hospital or this hospital."
 Sharma, who represents Ealing Southall, said: "The threat of Ealing Hospital (A&E) closure is a threat to the local people, people's access to the services and the threat to their lives. That's why I am supporting the march today".
 Meanwhile in south London several hundred people gathered in General Gordon Square in Woolwich to protest at the threat of privatisation to the three hospitals of South London Healthcare Trust – which has been put into administration.
 The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, the Queen Mary in Sidcup and the Princess Royal in Orpington are now being offered to companies like Virgin and Serco.
 The bankruptcy has been caused in large part by Private Finance Initiative deals. The Trust was created in 2009 with two hospitals, the Princess Royal and the Queen Elizabeth having huge PFI debts. The PFI debts last 30 years (finishing in 2032).
 Total costs of the two hospitals were £210 million; in 10 years £535 million has already been paid; the final bill will be £2.5 billion. Servicing the debt takes 14 per cent of the trust’s current income.
 Since being put into administration two wards at Queen Mary have been closed. The gynaecological ward of 28 beds is one of them; it has been reduced to 10 beds and put in with the men’s surgical ward – which is now a mixed surgical ward. And the Elderly Medical ward has been closed.
 The march from Woolwich to Charlton Park was supported by local Labour MP Clive Efford and trade unions including Unite, Unison, GMB, PCS, RMT and NUT as well as the Greenwich and Bexley Trades Council.
 Clive Efford told the crowd assembled in Woolwich before the march that the Coalition’s Act passed earlier this year would allow for private health companies to sue the DoH if they thought they were not being given enough opportunity to make profits out of providing healthcare, under European Union laws on commercial competition.
 Several union speakers warned that the new Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was a close ally of Rupert Murdoch and part of a group of right-wing MPs who have called for the NHS to be dismantled as “a 60-year socialist experiment that failed”.
 In Sussex thousands of people marched against plans to cut health services in Eastbourne and Hastings.
 They are opposed to proposals from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Eastbourne District General Hospital and Conquest Hospital in St Leonards, to centralise stroke care, emergency orthopaedics and emergency surgery at a single hospital.
 Demonstrators marched along Eastbourne seafront on Saturday morning. Speakers included the town’s MP, Stephen Lloyd and Lewes MP Norman Baker.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

No gold without DLA

DANIELLE Brown, a gold medal winner in the Paralympics, last week said that Disability Living Allowance, which is about to be scrapped, made it possible for her to take part in the games.
 She was the first Paralympian to speak out since the games began on the importance of the benefits and other financial support received by our elite disabled athletes.
 Her comments will deliver a boost to disabled campaigners who fear the Government will use the success of Britain’s Paralympians as an excuse for cutting vital support to disabled people.
 Brown, who won an archery gold medal in the individual compound event to add to the gold she won in Beijing four years ago, is believed to be the first disabled athlete to represent England in a non-disabled Commonwealth Games team, after qualifying for Delhi in 2010 and winning a team gold.
 She receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA, and also the DLA care component, but prefers not to say at which level.
 Like many ParalympicsGB athletes, her life is focused almost entirely on her sport, but when told by Disability News Service (DNS) of the Government’s plans to replace DLA with a new personal independence payment and cut spending by 20 per cent (saving the Government £2.2 billion), she said simply: “Oh, wow”.
 She said: “From a personal perspective, without the support, I personally couldn’t manage. If it was to be cut I know I would struggle. I can see how that would make other people be affected in a similar way.”
 She added: “I have got a Motability car [which is paid for with her DLA mobility payment] which I couldn’t manage without. I would struggle if I didn’t have a car.”
 Without her DLA, and without her car, she would be forced to take public transport. “If I catch a train it is very difficult. What do I do when I get to the other end, especially if I have very heavy equipment with me?”
 Asked why other athletes had failed to speak out so far about the cuts, she said: “I genuinely think that your focus is on the competition. You focus so hard on training, competing… it is not like real life.”
 She said she and other Paralympic athletes were just not aware of what was happening with welfare reform and cuts, and other political disability issues.
 Team GB’s Paralympic heroes have launched a furious attack on the Government over the savage plans to slash vital disability payments.
 Last week George Osborne was booed as he appeared in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, to present medals to triumphant Paralympians.
 Now competitors have told of their own fury at the Coalition cuts which will see benefits worth between £20 and £131.50 a week slashed next year.
Blind Team GB footballer Keryn Seal, 30, who relies on his £70-a-week allowance to get to training, told the Sunday Mirror: “I find it quite incredible that the Government can go around handing out medals when away from the Games they are taking the DLA away.
 “It’s all well and good backing disabled sports at the highest level and looking good for the cameras but what they are doing is going to affect hundreds of thousands of disabled people really badly.”

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Waltham Forest people block EDL march


by New Worker

THE ISLAMOPHOBIC English National Defence League suffered yet another humiliating defeat last Saturday, this time at the hands of the local residents of Waltham Forest in north-east London.
The EDL leader, Tommy Robinson, also known as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was hoping to re-establish his authority over this mob of racist thugs, football hooligans and ex-soldiers, after recent attempts to march the EDL through Brighton, Bristol, Chelmsford and other places had been thwarted by local residents.
 Robinson had organised a march of his followers from Blackhorse Tube station, along Forest Road to a spot in front of the local magistrates’ court, where he and a few of his lieutenants would greet them with speeches.
 But the local residents had other ideas. The local anti-fascist group, We Are Waltham Forest (WAWF), joined forces with Unite Against Fascism, the local trades council and a number of trade unions to organise a counter-rally in the town centre.
 This attracted around a couple of thousand supporters to listen to speeches from WAWF spokesperson Sophie Bolt, Irfan Akhter from the local council of mosques, Jeanette Arnold, a local Labour member of the Greater London Assembly, Green MEP Jean Lambert, local Labour MP Stella Creasy, UAF general secretary Weyman Bennett and many others.
 Weyman Bennett told the crowd that the local council and some others had not wanted a public protest against the EDL but for everyone to simply ignore them. “But we have seen the result of ignoring them. They grow more confident and stronger and attack local communities.”
 And he cited a list of incidents of EDL thugs running riot and attacking people and mosques after they had marched through an area.
 All the speakers had one message: that Waltham Forest was a place happy to welcome a rich diversity of people from all parts of the world but that the EDL brought hatred and division and was unwelcome in their borough.
 Robinson had called the EDL march as a national rally but only 150 to 200 made it to Blackhorse Road Tube station. There were small groups from all around the country and a couple of Polish fascists, sporting neo-Nazi odal rune tattoos.
 The EDL were heavily outnumbered by the police as they made their way very slowly and noisily along Forest Road, letting off a few firecrackers as they went.
 As they proceeded more and more local residents – black, white and brown – came out of their houses and out of the side streets to tell the EDL they were not wanted. “Whose streets? Our Streets!” they chanted.
 When the EDL reached the junction known as The Bell they found their way barred.
 Anti-fascists had marched from the town centre to block the road there. Many union banners were there from the Fire Brigades Union, RMT, Unison, Unite, the National Union of Teachers, PCS, NUJ and the local trades council.
 Police had kettled the anti-fascists, using a dozen police vans and a commandeered giant Iceland freezer container lorry to make an impassable barrier across the road.
 The furious EDL marchers had to be diverted down side streets. As they got near the magistrates’ court where Robinson was waiting, they found that that area was also occupied by anti-fascists.
 The police had again kettled the organised anti-fascists – who included Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union – but there were dozens of unorganised local people coming and going from all directions and the police found it impossible to seal the area.
 There was a stand-off for about an hour as Robinson could only deliver his speeches to the mocking anti-fascists and was pelted with plastic water bottles and placards.
 Eventually Robison and his platform group had to go into the side street to where his angry supporters had been kettled for some time to address them.
 Later police escorted the disappointed and humiliated EDL members back to Blackhorse Tube station, jeered all the way by the people who lived along the route, while traffic throughout the area was gridlocked by the events.
 They seemed unable to grasp the idea that the majority of the local residents, including the white English people whom they see as their natural constituency, wanted absolutely nothing to do with them and preferred to live in peace with their Muslim neighbours.

Inquiry into fatal police shooting

Azelle Rodney, a young black man, was shot dead by police on 30th April 2005 and last Monday a public inquiry into the shooting – which Rodney’s mother describes as an execution – was launched.
 The inquiry has viewed video footage of the police pursuit of the car in which Rodney was travelling with two other men up to the point where police shot Rodney six times. The two other men were unharmed.
 Police claim they had intelligence that the three men were about to commit an armed raid and had a car full of weapons.
 Police reluctance to speak about the nature of that intelligence has prevented any inquest or inquiry into the shooting until now.
 The video footage shows three unmarked police cars following the Volkswagen Golf carrying Rodney and the two other men through Mill Hill, before the vehicle was brought to a halt.
 Officers are then seen getting out to apprehend the suspects after which the recording picked up the dull thuds of the bullets being fired by one of the officers.
 Police say they believed Rodney, Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham had machine guns and were on their way to commit a drugs-related armed robbery, the inquiry heard.
 The officer who fired the fatal shots, identified only as E7, said in a statement given to the inquiry: "I believed I couldn't delay my decision to fire any longer. I felt that my colleagues were in immediate danger."
 Rodney's mother Susan Alexander questioned why her son was shot, while the other two men were left unharmed. In a statement, she said his girlfriend was eight months pregnant at the time.
 "To state the obvious they were at least able to walk away alive on 30th April and have long since served their prison sentences, while it seems to be that Azelle was executed that day and as a result never got to see his baby daughter," she said.
 "I can only say that I'm still shocked that guns were found by police in the car that Azelle was travelling in when he was killed.
"I do not believe from what I have heard that police had good reason to shoot at him, let alone kill him."

Monday, September 03, 2012

Disabled protest at Atos Games

 by New Worker correspondent

DISABLED campaigners, along with their friends, families and supporters, took to the streets this week in the Atos Games – a protest at the involvement of the private company Atos in sponsoring the Paralympic Games.
 The company is notorious for the work it does for the Department of Work and Pensions in assessing the capability to work of the disabled and long-term sick.
 The tests it uses are computer based and it has been set an agenda to slash by £18 billion the overall sickness and disability costs to the Treasury.
 The tests used pronounce people with terminal cancer and people with very severe disabilities fit to seek work or train for work.
 With high levels on unemployment the chances of these people finding work, even if they could do it, are zero. What it means in effect is removing them from higher long-term benefits on to short-term unemployment benefits at greatly reduced rates.
 And to secure even those benefits they have to go through a charade of looking for or training for work or face losing benefits altogether.
 There have been many deaths and several suicides as a result of DWP decisions based on Atos reports as the disabled despair. DWP decisions can be changed on appeal but this takes many months without benefits and legal aid to help people appeal has been cut.
 Recent editions of Dispatches and Panorama have exposed the pain to a wider audience. They documented an Atos "assessor" asking someone who had taken several overdoses why they weren't dead yet and there are stories of people being forced to walk until they collapse, before being declared "unfit for work".
 An investigation by the Daily Mirror highlighted that 1,100 employment support allowance claimants died after being placed in "work-related activity groups" – that's 32 a week.
 Protests began on Tuesday in Hull, Sheffield and Leeds over planned cuts to disability benefits. More protests are planned for the opening of the Paralympic Games.
 In addition the Government faces a court action from disabled people over its decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
 The case would be the latest in a series of high-profile judicial reviews of decisions by Government departments and other public bodies to slash services and spending due to the coalition’s deficit reduction plan.
 The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is planning to close the ILF, which will see funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
 The protesters say the plans to close the ILF – a Government-funded trust which helps about 19,700 disabled people with the highest support needs – are a huge threat to disabled people’s right to independent living.
 They say the money will not be ring-fenced when it is passed to local authorities, with the Government’s consultation paper offering no details on how councils will be able to meet the extra costs of disabled people with high support needs who previously received ILF money.
 And they fear many disabled people will be forces back into residential institutions – which in the long-term are more expensive to the Treasury.
 Campaigners are also fighting the Government for their right to have a recording of their interviews with Atos assessors – something that could be a valuable tool in appealing against DWP decisions.
 The on-line campaigning group False Economy says it has spoken to people who felt that their assessments were imprecise and unfair and that final reports did not necessarily reflect the facts of their disability.
 This issue of recording work capability assessments and proof of accuracy of interpretation is essential.
 The DWP's line is that people can ask to have their WCAs recorded, but only on official recording equipment – equipment that, as it turned out, seemed often to be broken, or unavailable, on days when people requested it.

Harassment victim to sue police

A BLACK student who has been stopped around 50 times by police – but never found to have committed any crime – is to sue the Metropolitan Police. He says he has suffered almost four years of harassment and false charges, which he believes have been motivated by racism.
 Between the ages of 14 and 17, the college student says he has faced a series of charges of which he has either been found not guilty or which have been dropped before getting to court, as well as numerous stops and searches and two strip searches, none of which identified any criminal activity.
 He says he has also been detained several times in police cells after which he was released without charge.
 Last week the teenager appeared at Bromley youth court, south London, charged with assaulting a police officer. The case collapsed after CCTV footage contradicted the evidence in court of PC John Lovegrove, who claimed to have been assaulted by the youth during a stop and search.
 The youth had been stopped by police in Sidcup, south London, on 11th February this year, after reports on the police radio that a named white suspect had threatened his father with a knife and had then run off. The police description was later amended to black or mixed race male.
 The youth said: "I can't think of any other reason why the police keep doing this to me apart from racism. I've been stopped and searched so many times I've lost count, I think it's about 50 times."