As part of a series of actions leading up to the Boycott Workfare national week of action in July, members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation were joined by members of the Anarchist Federation and other local activists in a picket of the city centre office of workfare profiteer A4e. A4e provide work placements which the unemployed are compelled to attend under threat of benefit sanction.
We set up our picket on the street outside the building where A4e are based and were immediately approached by security guards from inside. We were asked not to stand in the area around the door on the basis that it was private property, but were otherwise left alone except when one of the guards, curious about the picket, asked for a leaflet. We gave out a few hundred leaflets and held conversations about the work programmes with passing members of the public.
After around 45 minutes though, a man from inside the building, presumably the building’s owner, approached the picket and began to get aggressive, making accusations of trespass and even assault. The picket stood its ground as he threatened to take our flags away. He went inside to call the police and from this point the security guards became more zealous in their attempts to keep us away from the doorway, with one targeting a member of a picket whenever her young child strayed too near the doorway. A police van arrived some minutes later with a lone officer who was unable and unwilling to move us on.
Alongside the picket there was a call for a communications blockade of the office. People from all over the country called, emailed and faxed the Liverpool office to express their feelings over A4e’s involvement in the work programme or just make a nuisance of themselves in an attempt to tie up phone lines, fill up mailboxes and use up paper and ink. This resulted in the Liverpool office attempting to divert calls to a national switchboard.
The recent actions and the actions over the next few weeks are designed to ramp up the pressure on A4e and on employers who exploit the free labour the work programmes provide. The next target is the A4e office in Bootle and a communications blockade has been called for 14th June. On 16th June, the fight moves to Smithdown Road in Wavertree.
Today can certainly be considered a success but we need to keep up the pressure and build the momentum as we move towards the week of action. The ultimate aim being that it becomes imprudent for the profiteers and exploiters to continue with the work programmes.
For more information on the work programmes, see here.