News from the Brighton against Benefits Cuts?

BABC (Brighton Against Benefits Cuts) was born in 1996, when the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) was introduced by the Labour government. When the JSA came in the offing, a nationwide movement of radical claimamts action groups emerged, calling itself Groundswell. At the same time, a national network of unemployed activists linked up with the continental Euromarch campaign in France.

The sanctions and stricter benefits regime of the JSA paved the way for workfare in the UK, but at the European level as well. BABC is involved in organizing resistance to the New Deal workfare and other attacks on benefits. BABC supports autonomous action by claimants and resistance by Benefits Agencies ? where you get your unemployment benefits-, JobCentre ? where you look for work- or Housing Benefits Centres staff. Link between claimants and workers is seen as crucial ; attacks on benefits undermine the floor of workers? wages, and unity is needed to resist these attacks.

There were some important steps in this movement of resistance in Brighton : in 1996, Brighton claimants joined benefits workers on their picket lines daily. BABC also supported Housing benefits staff when they went on strike in 1999. More recently, BABC was on the workers? picket lines in Jobcentres and Benefits Agencies. As the government plans to merge JobCentre and Benefits Agencies functions in a single office, JobCentre Plus, approximately 45 000 benefits workers walked out on the two days of strike organized in January. This strike ended on the 25 March, with the victory of the benefits workers, who claimed to have more autonomy and a safer working environment. This success will give benefits workers the confidence to resist further management demands and reforms towards even more workfare, and will serve to promote as well the confidence in all the claimants that collective action is possible and effective, and that the restructuring and implementation of the existing system is indeed vulnerable to resistance.

Chrystelle Blanc-Lanaute (Euromarchesnews 22)




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