Wanting To Gain Experience In Your Field Rather Than Something Unrelated Is Just Common Sense

Imagine this situation. You don’t have a job, there’s not enough work out there and also you are young and with little work experience. So to get experience, to network, or to simply prove that yes you can get up every day and be at work, you go and find some.

There are two opportunities. One of them is with a charitable organisation that works in the industry you would really like to get into, meaning that you would be getting experience directly in the area you’d like to work. Obviously you are applying for work anywhere, and would take jobs that have nothing to do with this, but ideally you’d love to be working in this industry.
The second one is working for free for a profitable company in an industry that is not what you’d like to be involved with. Additionally, you’ve already got lots of experience in this industry from previous part time jobs when you were at school/college/university.

Which one do you do?

I think it’s pretty sensible to say that you would take the first – clearly you still gain all the experience and everything else that you’d get from the second one, but also gives you a better chance of getting that dream job by giving you experience and letting you meet people in that industry.

This is the position that Cait Reilly was in. She would love to be a museum curator. She’s applying for work anywhere and would take a paid position that was nothing to do with museums, but she’d love to find something in a museum if she could.
So since she couldn’t find work, she volunteered at the Birmingham Pen Museum (yes, it is real, click the link, and when you’re next in Birmingham, pop along.. it’s not a big museum so it’s not going to take all day, but iirc Birmingham used to make 97% of all the fountain pen nibs in the world, so it’s an interesting piece of local history).
Yep, she volunteered there – off her own back, in a genuinely voluntary role – in order to get experience in the area she really wants to work in – experience that will help her get work elsewhere as well.

Then the job centre said she had to leave that to go and work for Poundland, a profitable company that has nothing to do with museums.
There is nothing that she could have gained from this that she wasn’t already getting from volunteering in the Pen Museum. I think that anyone reading this would see that she was much better off staying where she was and there was no reason whatsoever to make her leave.

That’s why she objected to being forced to work in Poundland. It’s not because she is a snob, or that she thinks the work was beneath her, or that she wasn’t going to even look for work if it wasn’t going to be in a museum.
But those things are what the right wing press are portraying her as saying. They conveniently fail to mention that she was volunteering before being sent on this scheme. They fail to think that as an employer, the person who has gone out themselves and volunteered to get experience is more attractive than the person who has been forced to do so. They should be applauding her for taking the action she has to stop anyone else in the same position as her from being made to do something that is so obviously idiotic.
Instead they are using her as a scapegoat, to wrongly portray the attitude that those of us campaigning against workfare have towards it.

Fuck em. Just make sure that you let people know that Cait was forced to stop volunteering in order to go and undermine peoples jobs at Poundland whenever you hear anyone talking about this story, because even though the Guardian told us that in its first article, the right wing commentators, like “Mad” Jan Moir, ignore it in favour of projecting their own views about the kind of jobs that they probably see as being for the lower orders only, and not for people like them. They would not do these jobs, they look down on the people who do, and they are unable to comprehend that not everyone thinks in the way they do.

#ff @boycottworkfare


Save Island House

Demo Thurs 26th, 11am, outside council house, before planning meeting.


Today my blog should be joining the blackout. I was going to put a post up like this, but WordPress provided an option to blackout properly, and I’m also impressed with the job they’ve done on their site, so full credit to them.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it’s not actually blacking out my webpage. Which doesn’t matter cos no-one looks at it anyway 🙂

So if you’re reading this and you’re from the US, follow this link

If you’re not from the US, or want to know more about SOPA/PIPA, then for today see this website, and otherwise look on wikipedia, who are also blacked out today.

This issue will affect everyone around the world, but mostly US citizens.

Why the twin stories of Dave Hartnett and Osita Mba mean you should be out with UK Uncut on the 17th

A bit over a year ago, UK Uncut began, occupying a Vodafone store in central London in protest against the tax dodge which Private Eye exposed that they claimed was £6bn, but HMRC settled for just £1.25bn.
The man in charge of HMRC, who apparently did the deal, is Dave Hartnett.
Dave Hartnett did another deal, with Goldman Sachs, where he (allegedly illegally) let them off £10m in interest on a tax dodge. This incident was brought to light by Osita Mba.

Last week, it emerged that one of these men will retire next year, whilst the other is being disciplined and threatened with the sack for his actions.
Of course, you already know which is which. Dave Hartnett, who in his job as chief taxman, has let hugely profitable multinational companies off tax bills, is to be allowed to retire, to a comfortable pension and no doubt to any number of non-executive directorships for the companies he’s worked so hard for at HMRC, or the tax dodging divisions of the accountancy firms who find loopholes to exploit and sell to companies who don’t want to pay their part towards the public services they depend on for their business.
He is not suspended, pending an inquiry and possibly a court case, concerning his behaviour towards these companies, and asking why, in his role as chief taxman, did he let them off their bills? I ran a small ltd company, and on the occasion I paid my corporation tax late, there was no way they were going to let me off my fine. Perhaps if I’d been able to book a dinner with Dave, a different outcome might have awaited me, and I’d be £100 better off right now.

Meanwhile, Osita Mba, the HMRC solicitor who blew the whistle on the Goldman Sachs deal, has been suspended, and is facing disciplinary procedures. The Guardian say he could be sacked, but I don’t think this is possible, as there is protection for whistleblowers in law, and such a sacking could be considered automatically unfair (ianal disclaimer applies of course). HMRC might sack him anyway, and take the hit of compensation at the tribunal of course, or exploit something else to sack him.
This is clearly a disgrace, Osita should be rewarded for whistleblowing, not punished, and being disciplined will deter other whistleblowers from coming forward.
He may have saved the taxpayer £10m directly, and far, far more from exposing the cosy relationship between HMRC and major multinationals and helping to bring about change.
For a bit of context, Birmingham City Council are currently looking at closing 5 childrens’ homes in Birmingham, including two that provide respite care for disabled children, in order to save around £7m. Goldman Sachs meanwhile, made a profit of $2.7 Billion in the first quarter of 2011

HMRC need to know that if they do not reinstate him quickly then this will become an issue for them. That Osita is supported by a campaign network in solidarity with his actions to help bring about tax justice.

Osita needs our solidarity and support right now. That is why you should be on the streets with #UKUncut on Saturday.

In Birmingham, we’ll meet outside Moor Street train station, at 2pm, and decide where to go from there. Vague ideas about street theatre have been hatched, and if we can get a santa outfit, we’ll be handing out christmas presents in the form of public services to hard working tax payers, only to have them snatched away by tax dodgers..

You can see where else has actions planned on the UK Uncut website – if there’s not one near you, why not ring round some friends and organise one – there’s a guide to planning an action as well.

Also, if you have some spare cash, please make a donation to UK Uncut Legal, who are seeking to take legal action against HMRC over the Goldman Sachs case. If successful, this could see the return of millions of pounds to the treasury, and may open up legal challenges to other tax deals.

#ff @UKUncut @UKUncutLegal @BirminghamUncut #ositamba #ukuncut

Where now for resistance to the NHS bill

November 9th is the student anti-privatisation demo, they are marching on the city.. lots of anger about the nhs was being directed to that march, which makes sense because this is also about privatisation.. so join the march on the city.

aside from that, not sure.. there’s probably a certain amount of civil disobedience that can be done to prevent the bill from actually working like it should, though I’m not sure any of these will actually work:

GPs refuse to pass any patients onto private companies
patients insist on being treated by NHS
occupations of private healthcare company offices to prevent them from working.

and of course, stringing the tories up from lamposts 😉

I’ve not been at all well for the last few days. In a streak of irony I picked some bug up on Sunday at the protest to defend the NHS, so my thoughts might be total rubbish.
I’m sure ideas will emerge, but I looked around for private healthcare company offices in the west mids before the 3rd reading of the healthbill and couldn’t find any – only hospitals and I’m still not up for actually disrupting the healthcare operations of private companies.
If, however, we could disrupt their accounting departments, destroy billing records etc, that could be interesting.  There is something called a “good work” strike which has been effective in private healthcare systems in the past:

Workers at Mercy Hospital in France, who were afraid that patients would go untreated if they went on strike, instead refused to file the billing slips for drugs, lab tests, treatments, and therapy. As a result, the patients got better care (since time was being spent caring for them instead of doing paperwork), for free. The hospital’s income was cut in half, and panic-stricken administrators gave in to all of the workers’ demands after three days.

Of course, that’s about the workers not the patients, but the principle of it – to disrupt the income flow of private healthcare companies so that they cannot financially operate is I think a sound way forward – after all, this is what the tories will be doing to the NHS, letting bits of it get run down through underfunding, refusing to bail out trusts that are in debt, and then using the lack of money as an excuse to close them and shift stuff to the private companies.  We can look at how we can do the same kind of thing to private healthcare companies.
In which case, insisting on private companies and then refusing to pay the bills would be an interesting tactic.. although we’ll not be at that level of privatisation yet as far as I can see, ie: no patient is going to be billed directly, it’ll be the taxpayer that is billed.. so we’d need accountants in the NHS to refuse to process payments to private companies..

I think there’s probably a few creative ways that we can undermine the effects of the health bill, once it’s really put into operation.
I’d like to talk about making sure whoever gets elected next time knows that they absolutely have to repeal it.  I don’t have any hope in that though, since Labour don’t show any signs of actually opposing anything and started this whole thing rolling with foundation hospitals anyway. Ultimately the destruction of the NHS has been coming for many years, and to save it we need to enforce major changes to the political system of this country.

Why you should be joining the anti-ATOS day of action on Friday

If you know about ATOS, you can skip the next three  paragraphs.  If you don’t, read on, but also read this article: What’s Wrong with ATOS

The taxpayer pays ATOS £300m to carry out Work Capability Assessments for people claiming disability benefits. ATOS is primarily an IT company, though these are carried out by ATOS Healthcare.  The assessments are simply computer based checklists, and ATOS often ignore doctors advice about the patients capability for work.  This leads to many wrong assessments, with DPAC saying that 70% of appeals are upheld.   We pay an additional £30m -£50m for the costs of appeals.  This appeal process can take up to 18 months, leaving a disabled person who is incorrectly assessed without their benefits.  I have heard of a case of someone with terminal cancer who was assessed fit to work, and died two weeks later.  At a recent public meeting, Sam from DPAC said that 5 people have committed suicide due to the assessment process and the stress it has caused them.

ATOS recently used libel laws to get various websites that had content critical of their handling of WCAs pulled from the web, including Carer Forum, where many disabled people and carers receive support and advice.  For those who find it difficult to leave the house, the internet provides an important safety and support network, which ATOS removed for a number of days.

And recently, ATOS were given contracts for the UK Paralympics IT systems.  The chair of ATOS has also been put on the board for  the Paralympics.  This is a disgusting slap in the face for disabled people.


More broadly, the Welfare Reform Bill is being railroaded through parliament, with procedural rules being used to sideline debate, and we see attacks on disabled people and benefit claimants in the tabloids time and time again.  Recently the Daily Mail and Express ran articles claiming just 7% of ESA claimants need it – Latent Existence took them apart on their figures here.  When the Express ran an article about worklessness, there were more discussions about the statistics – you can read my analysis here with links to others.

The fight to get ATOS removed as the company that runs WCAs is part of the movement to protect benefit claimants from attacks by the ConDem coalition as part of the austerity agenda.  The demonisation of this group, the attempt to split the working class, must be resisted.  The best way for non-benefit claimants to resist this is through acts of solidarity and mutual aid.

In this case solidarity means going to and promoting actions in support of benefit claimants.  So on Friday, wherever you are, either join a local action, or take part in the online event and then prepare to the next day of action.

Rant: Who is showing a contempt for democracy?

On Friday, for the opening of the Liberal Democrat conference, student acitivists from the University of Birmingham did a banner drop from the bridge connecting the Hyatt Hotel to the ICC conference centre.

For this heinous crime they were arrested, and held in police cells over the weekend having been charged with road traffic offenses, with the police alleging that the banner drop caused debris to fall on the road – I witnessed the whole action, and did not see anything fall from the bridge. The police said at the bail hearing that no damage was done and no-one was hurt.

At the bail hearing on Monday, Ed Bauer, a sabbatical officer elected to office at the University of Birmingham on the basis that he would campaign for students, was held on remand, and will be imprisoned without trial for at least 10 days. I’ve already posted some thoughts about that disgraceful decision.

Today, the guild’s student paper, Redbrick, reported on the story, which included this quote from Will Mieville-Hawkins (sorry, I can’t work out how to do the accented e):

“The University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats respect the right to free assembly, speech and protest. However Mr. Bauer’s actions this weekend show his contempt for democracy and free association and bring the Guild into disrepute.”

This from the mouth of a man representing a party who before the last election pledged to “vote against a rise in tuition fees and push for a fairer alternative”, and then mostly voted for tuition fees.  Surely this is the real contempt for democracy – asking people to vote for you on the basis of a set of promises pertaining as to how you will behave if you are in power, or what you will seek to do if you are not. (Just to re-iterate, Ed’s promises in his election were about campaigning for students, so this action does actually show he is doing as he promised – exactly what democracy is about)

The tuition fee rise was not contained in the coalition agreement, so any claims about things being different because you are in a coaltion should be laughed at.

In any case, lots of students voted for the Liberal Democrats on the basis of that pledge, and to have such a clear promise broken is the absolute height of contempt for democracy.

More broadly it is clear from the huge drop in support for the Liberal Democrats in polls – which are now running at between 8% and 10% – and at the by-elections held since the general election, which have seen Liberal Democrats get less votes than UKIP and independent canidates, and in some cases lose their deposits – that the Liberal Democrats have entered into a government which is not doing what people voted for.

A democracy is about people having governance over themselves.  We have a representative democracy, which means we vote for people to rule over us, on the basis of promises as to what they will do.  Many people voted for the Liberal Democrats believing them to be a left-liberal party, even thinking they were to the left of Labour.  What they have got is a centre-right party, aiding and abbetting the Tories in their austerity and neo-liberal agendas.

Contempt for democracy? look in the fucking mirror Will.