Protest rains down on Atos in Manchester

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Dan Edwards reports on the first of a series of protests

On a wet and grey Thursday lunchtime, around forty people braved the elements to tell the public about the crimes of international corporation ATOS and protest at the company’s offices.

Organised by members of Manchester Against Benefits Cuts, supporters from a range of campaigns as well as affected members of the public marched from Manchester Town Hall on ATOS’ offices in protest of the Work Capacity Assessments they’ve been carrying out.

These Work Capacity Assessments have been paid for by the government, who are determined to slash £2 billion from the amount the state pays towards disabled peoples’ benefits. Many disabled and severely ill people have had their benefits taken away after brief trips to one of ATOS’ centres, in a lot of cases on very flimsy evidence. ATOS is profiting from taking away welfare from some of the most in-need in society.

The human consequences of this are drastic, as people are left without any form of financial support while struggling with debilitating physical and mental illnesses. Some have even taken their own lives after having their benefits taken away. Marchers had built a cardboard coffin to carry along on the protest, and a wreath was presented to the staff of the ATOS building (under the ever-watchful eyes of the police and G4S security) as a commemoration of those who have died. People who had been directly affected by the rulings of the company gave moving speeches about their experiences and those of their family members. In one case a young woman who had nearly died from cancer twice had been stripped of benefits for over seven months.

This is yet another example of how the government is effectively funnelling public money into the private sector. Even though many of the rulings of ATOS have been overturned at appeals, the company keeps on profiting and the affected people often have to wait months with no source of income and no guarantee of their benefits’ return. The company has become so desperate to hid what it’s doing that it has threatened numerous blogs and websites with legal action if they didn’t take their information down.

ATOS must be stopped. Speakers spoke of the dire need to connect disabled peoples’ campaigns with those of the workers in ATOS itself, who are often underpaid and overworked. Direct action needs to be taken against the company’s bosses, not only from without but also from within.

 

Video by Brad Krantz

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