Work coaches confirm harsher new DWP jobcentre tactics

Disability news service

By John Pring on 17th March 2022 Category: Benefits and Poverty

New disturbing evidence has emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced harsher rules designed to force more disabled people with significant mental distress to attend frequent face-to-face jobcentre meetings.

Last week, a work coach told Disability News Service (DNS) that she and her colleagues were being “bullied and harassed” into forcing claimants with significant mental distress into attending work-related meetings.

Many have been waiting months for a work capability assessment (WCA) but in the meantime are being forced to make regular trips to the jobcentre so work coaches can meet their targets for face-to-face appointments.

After the story was published last Thursday, DNS received an anonymous phone message – apparently from another work coach – who said the harsher new approach “was definitely happening”, although DNS has been unable to confirm that they work for DWP.

The Benefits and Work website has also reported hearing from someone who claimed to be a former DWP employee and who said that work coaches were being “named and shamed” by their bosses for not pushing enough claimants out of the support group* of employment and support allowance (ESA) and onto universal credit.

They also claimed

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AngryWorkers’ Daily Dose of Class Hatred #4

AngryWorkers

Their borders – Our misery…

(This text was written a few days before the most recent tragedy in the Channel, during which 27 people drowned)

Syrian man found dead on Polish side of border with Belarus
Polish police say cause of death not determined after body discovered in woods near village of Wolka Terechowska.
“A forest worker informed the police about finding the body of a young man,” Tomasz Krupa, a Podlaska police spokesman, told Reuters.
“It is a young man of Syrian nationality around 20 years old,” Krupa said. It was not possible to determine the cause of death at the scene, he added.
At least nine people are reported to have died in the migration.

Death and misery has returned to an area of Europe which was the scene of unimaginable slaughter and destruction during the two 20th century imperialist bloodbaths. Today, the imperialist rivalries remain at a level of hostage taking, cyber attacks, altering the flow of resources, building alliances and eroding the opponents’ blocs and so on. The immediate trigger for the horrors in Eastern Europe has been the decision by the Belarus state to tempt refugees to fly to the capital Minsk from where they are moved to the border areas with Poland, Lithuania or Latvia – all part of “Fortress Europe”. The thousands of refugees already at or heading for the border between Belarus (an ally of Russia) and the states in the European Union (also part of NATO and the EU’s own military arrangements) are the pawns in the game of world capitalism in crisis.

Those are the particular features behind that hell hole but across the world desperation forces migration. In the deepening horrors of the 21st century, wars without end, ecological disasters and the absence of any hope of adequate paid work all overlap to make starvation, at whatever tempo, the only alternative.

Our siblings drown in the English Channel or Mediterranean, they suffocate in sealed lorries, have their primitive settlements and shacks destroyed and are beaten or worse by the state forces. Their possessions and money are sucked away by the “people traffickers”, now including the travel operators and airlines who flew desperate people to Minsk. Many of those who reach their “promised land” are enslaved by the gangs who robbed their money, gambled with their lives and still brutally control them and their family members that stayed behind.

For the bosses, we’re all “It”s of this or that nationality fit to be transported, trapped and tormented according to the whims of capital. Despite the systems of production and exchange having spanned the world for more than 100 years, it suits the bosses to keep their national states and to exercise their strength and control in each area.

In the case of the atrocities at the borders of Belarus it is poisonous for us to try and argue in favour of one set of state gangsters or another. The delusions of “national identity” and support for “our” national state and borders have always meant death and suffering for workers. Lest we forget!

Help support IWW vs Golders Green College!

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V has worked at Oxford Colleges International for over 17 years. She has trained most of her colleagues in teaching english as a second languge, and has written a number of revision resources and workbooks for students.

At the end of September, she was informed that at the beginning of next month she would be transferred to a new contract with reduced hours and pay. Her employer has repeatedly refused a consultation meeting with union representation present, and she has been forced to work under protest, on a contract she cannot afford to live on, being denied redundancy pay or proper payment for the 16 days of untaken holiday she had accurred.

We are now taking this case to employment tribunal on the following grounds:

  • Illegally changing contract and employer without consultation, amounting to an unfair dismissal without redundancy pay.
  • Illegally refusing a grievance complaint meeting with union representation present.
  • Repeated failures to send pay over the past year, forcing V to accrue overdraft fees and causing significant financial distress.

While this case goes to employment tribunal, we are looking for funds to support V financially. Direct donations are welcome, or you can buy any one of the learning resources and colouring books on V’s etsy store , each of which will come with a signed thank you note from her.

Thank you for your support

V, and the TEFL Workers’ Union

Another Bournemouth TEFL case: bogus contracts at Anglo-Continental School of English.

In June 2021 a language teacher who we shall call ‘Jo’ asked us to help prepare a case against Anglo-Continental School of English regarding the fraudulent use of “fixed term contracts” after reading about the successful outcome for staff at Kaplan School.

Jo started work at Anglo-Continental on a fixed term contract in 2010. This ended when the school closed for its December break. Jo returned to the school in January and the contract was extended for one year.

This pattern was repeated over the next eight years. They worked in the same job at the same site for at least 11 months each year with 4 weeks paid holiday, being upgraded to Co-ordinator in the summer months. The HR manager even admitted they had to break the contract annually to deny them full employment rights; often when they requested a holiday they were given a P45.

After four years, according to UK employment law, Jo became a permanent employee by default, however they were never informed of this fact by management (a breach of its contractual duty of “trust and confidence”).

In March 2020 the school shut and Jo was put on ‘furlough’ until 31st July. Their contract was then terminated on the grounds there was no work; in law this is simply ‘dismissal by reason of redundancy’. They were not consulted over redundancy selection nor told of their entitlement to compensation (another contractual breach).

Had Jo contacted the union at the time we would of course have taken it to tribunal. Unfortunately these cases are time limited but we believe if a sum is owed to a Fellow Worker, it remains owed until it is paid.

In March 2021 Jo returned to the school with a new contract which ran until they took a week off on 4th June after which it was again renewed.

In July the TEFL union wrote claiming compensation and passed the casework to Dorset branch. Within days Jo was fired. Dismissals for Trade Union activity and ‘whistle-blowing’ are automatically unfair so no need to quibble over length of service. We’ve now exhausted the grievance procedure and ACAS Conciliation so we are, at last, taking it to the Employment Tribunal.

Sinister: Guido Shillig

We have sight of internal e-mails that show Anglo-continental as a dysfunctional organisation with no clear demarcation of responsibility (and a limited grasp of the English language). Five members of staff, including senior managers were overruled on a whim of their sinister boss Guido Shillig, who we’re told “doesn’t like unionists”.

The IWW will not rest until we obtain for our members the full fruits of their labour. If you teach English as a foreign language join the TEFL union and help put this villain in his place.

Tell ’em what you think:
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Tel: 01202 557414

Discrimination at Whales English: Not on our watch

IWW WISE-RA

What would you call it if a language school refused to employ someone on the grounds that they spoke another language fluently, other than English? Discrimination? Racism? Native-speakerism? All of the above?

A teacher applied to Whales English, based in Beijing, for an online position teaching children, having more than the required experience and qualifications. She was unsuccessful. But one of the grounds of her refusal was because of a system of “keywords” used to automatically screen out applicants. The company admitted in writing that one of these is saying you are fluent in other languages as it “could fool the system/recruiters into thinking you are not a native speaker.”

Of course, the TEFL Workers’ Union simply does not accept that non-native speakers can be assumed to be poorer teachers. However, regardless of that, it is absurd to suggest that bilingual people cannot be native speakers. That an English language school fails to understand that is astonishing

Moreover, in the context of the English language in particular, large numbers of native English speakers are either born in countries such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia etc, where English is the first language of a very large number of citizens, or, as in this teacher’s case, are born, raised and educated in the UK, but learn other languages from their particular ethnic community. Discriminating against job applicants on that basis runs the risk of being guilty of race-based discrimination. To come up against such attitudes in 2021 is shocking and appalling.

The TEFL Workers’ Union demands that this practice is ended and that the worker concerned is compensated for the distress suffered! We will not tolerate discrimination in the ELT industry and we certainly won’t tolerate our members being denied jobs because of the bigotry and prejudice of dodgy language schools.

We’ve already raised the issue directly with Whales English who’ve neglected to respond.  Perhaps they think that will be the end of the matter.  They’re wrong. Watch this space to see how you can help put an end to discrimination at Whales English – and across English language teaching.

Discrimination in Bournemouth update: ELT institutions shirk their responsibility

Watch this space for another TEFL dispute in Bournemouth, they don’t like it up ’em!

IWW WISE-RA

The TEFL Workers’ Union’s dispute with United World School of English in Bournemouth continues. If you don’t know about the case, it revolves around allegations that United World mistreated and discriminated against one of our members there as a result of his being disabled. The background for the dispute can be found here.

So far, the local IWW branch has held two successful pickets alongside a “Twitterstorm” targeting United World on social media. We’ve since had enquiries from local media, the TEFL press, and other Bournemouth ELT workers.

Mike, the worker at the centre of the dispute, can pick up the story from there:

The IWW has organised two pickets and they’ve been very effective. The first really struck home and brought the school back to the negotiating table. However, the owner simply repeated one of her earlier offers (offering to re-instate me), plus she added a condition. Since we’d already turned down this offer, we have no choice but to take her to tribunal.

Normally, this would probably be too difficult for me to do on my own,  but with the support of the IWW, I know we can see this through. I hope this all brings about more recognition that mental health issues need to be recognised by everyone in the workplace.

We’ve filed the paperwork for an employment tribunal and we fully intend to go all the way to a hearing if United World isn’t willing to make this right. But the IWW is a fighting union and employment tribunals are always accompanied by ongoing campaigning. Part of that campaign has been to reach out to the institutions that we’re told are there to oversee the industry and ensure language schools comply with the law.

Locally, we emailed Simon Freeman. Mr Freeman is the executive officer of RALSA, which appears to operate as the local British Council affiliate in Bournemouth. Despite the fact United World is a member of RALSA, the organisation declined to investigate the matter despite our offer of corroborating documentation. More than that, RALSA refused to put out a statement condemning discrimination in even the broadest terms. Mr Freeman only offered the following response:

While I am sorry to read about this situation, it is a legal matter that RALSA is not in a position to get involved in as the courts will decide on what is / was fair and any sanctions would follow from that decision.  I have checked the RALSA Constitution and any involvement in such matters is clearly not within RALSA’s remit.

From there, we contacted the national office of English UK, an organisation which makes a great public show of their commitment to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. While English UK at least had the decently to claim they stood against discrimination, they too failed to take any steps to hold one of the their affiliate schools to account:

We cannot comment on individual cases where there is a legal process ongoing.

At English UK, we take equality legislation seriously. All English UK members must adhere to a code of practice (English UK Rules, Section S2, p. 4ff) which includes the following clause:

1.3 The Member will comply with all applicable laws and regulations of the UK and European Union governments. You can find a copy of the full English UK Member Rules here:

https://www.englishuk.com/uploads/assets/members/rules/English_UK_Rules.pdf

In line with their duty to comply with all applicable UK laws, English UK members must not discriminate against anyone at work because of a protected characteristic and must make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.

This establishes, yet again, that ELT institutions will refuse to investigate their member schools regardless of the seriousness of the allegation. For English UK, it appears opposition to discrimination is merely something for lofty proclamation, not something which is to be enforced (or even investigated!) internally within the organisation.

Should Mike’s case proceed to a judgement at tribunal, we will again raise the matter with English UK to determine if, at that point, they’ll take steps to hold their members to account. We are also pursuing the matter with the British Council directly. However, given disabled workers at British Council have made allegations of discrimination while working there, it will be a welcome surprise if the British Council lives up to its responsibility as the supposed regulator of the UK ELT industry.

But this is why the TEFL Workers’ Union exists.  We’re not in the least bit surprised that bosses’ organisations like English UK or the British Council fail to hold our bosses to account. And because they won’t, we will. If you’ve been mistreated at work, the union has got your back. Whether it’s legal advice, representation in a disciplinary or grievance, or a public campaign, we’re here to hold your boss to account.

Surprise picket at United World language school in support of disabled worker.

Mike is a language teacher with 20 years service at United World school of English in Bournemouth. Language schools are notorious for exploitation and poor employment practices, hence the need for a TEFL union within the IWW. Mike is now suing them for constructive dismissal on grounds of disability discrimination under the equalities act 2010.

Thanks to those Fellow Workers who turned out at short notice to support him, it was great fun. Arriving at 9:30 we made a placard on the spot and gave out many leaflets. Reception from the public was entirely positive and it’s good to chat with people about their own work problems.

The bosses’ pathetic blithering fell on deaf ears, had we heard their side? Save it for the tribunal, mush, it’s an adversarial process. You can complain to these types till you’re blue in the face but when you take action they act all hurt. One told us our picket was illegal, which it isn’t. It never ceases to amaze us how ignorant some managers are concerning the laws made on their behalf.


If you treat your workers with disrespect we will shut you down! Have a read of our leaflet and tell ’em what you think:

United World School of English, Brandon & Clifton House, 44 – 46 St Peter’s Rd. Bournemouth, BH1 2LT
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 315166
What’s App: +44(0) 7825
https://www.unitedworldschool.co.uk/contact-us

Solidarity from the Overseas Teachers to Language House London staff

Industrial Workers of the World WISERA (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England Regional Administration)Demonstrating the IWW’s commitment to solidarity within and across workplaces, the teachers at the Overseas Teachers – in the middle of their own dispute over bogus self-employment – have sent words of solidarity and congratulations to the teachers at Language House London who’ve just won their case against false self-employment.

To our Comrades over at Language House London,

Congratulations for winning your tribunal case after a long campaign against the awful wage-theft you’ve encountered!

It is great news to see comrades in a similar situation winning their case, we have full sympathy towards the efforts you have made to get to this point and we thank you for fighting for justice from the terrible conditions that you faced at the company. We hope that you can now take a well-earned rest from campaigning.

Solidarity,

Comrades at The Overseas Teacher

URGENT ACTION: Get James out of HMP Humber

We have been made aware of a man being held in HMP Humber, experiencing severe mental health issues and being harrassed and bullied by prison officers. James (not his real name) has been diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy and depression. Since arriving at the prison he has been denied any medication for these health conditions. He has also regularly been denied essential hygiene items and opportunities to wash his clothes.

Instead of being offered support for his mental health needs, James has become a target for bullying and harassment by prison officers, who have been entertaining themselves by antagonising James and by attempting to create conflicts between him and other prisoners. This is having a severe impact on James’ mental health, worsening his depression and causing him to self-harm.

This is not the first time issues have been raised about the treatment of prisoners by staff at HMP Humber. In 2018, “official inspectors criticised HMP Humber, a Category C prison […], for 206 “use of force” incidents in the previous six months, “more than at . . . other category C training prisons””. Of prisoners surveyed by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons in 2018, 48% said they had experienced bullying by staff.

James’ sister has asked us to take action as a last resort. She has exhausted every possible avenue for getting James the help he needs, contacting prison staff, the prison governor, the Independent Monitoring Board, the prison healthcare team and James’ GP. No action has been taken by the prison and James’ sister is now extremely fearful for his mental health and physical wellbeing.

James wants to be transferred to a different prison, away from the officers who have been harassing him, so he can access the healthcare he needs and complete the rest of his sentence. Both James and his sister have asked numerous times for him to be transferred to HMP Buckley Hall, another category C prison within a reasonable distance from his family.

How you can help:

  • Write to the governor of HMP Humber, Marcella Goligher to demand that James is transferred to HMP Buckley Hall immediately and provided with medication for his health conditions. marcella.goligher@hmps.gsi.gov.uk
  • Write to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, to demand that James is transferred to HMP Buckley Hall immediately and provided with medication for his health conditions. https://contact-moj.service.justice.gov.uk/
  • Tweet HMP Humber and let them know what you think of how they treat people with mental health needs. @HMP_Humber

Please note: we are using a fake name for this action alert, to protect James and his family. However, the Prisoner Solidarity Network has contacted the prison and the Ministry of Justice about this issue, using James’ real name and prison number. This means that it will be clear to both the prison and the Ministry of Justice who your email is referring to, even if they won’t admit it!

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom: by Paul Haw.

Paul Haw is Dorset IWW Branch Secretary, a volunteer youth worker and campaigner on LGBTQ+ and disability rights.

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.

I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.

The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.

In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.

All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.

As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.

In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.

The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.

It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.

Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.

In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.

Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.

The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.

As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.

They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.

I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.

Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.

I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

– Albus Dumbeldore

Paul Haw