Westfield Occupiers Evicted, But Battle Must Continue

Occupy: Westfield Solidarity Protest

Members of Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs joined a solidarity protest with the Occupy: Westfield group outside Bradford Crown Court on Tuesday 3rd July. The group have been occupying the area in the city centre where Westfield had started laying down foundations for a new shopping centre, more commonly known as ‘the Bradford hole’, and like the derelict Odeon building on the other side of town, is seen by many in town as a symbol of the city’d economic decline. The occupiers were in court as Westfield were seeking a possession order for the site.

Iain Dalton, Youth Fight for Jobs – Yorkshire Organiser

Occupy Westfield had been established in May, shortly after the election of five Respect councillors in the local elections, and prior to that of George Galloway as Respect MP for Bradford West. Unemployment, stands at 6% in Bradford, higher then both the regional average of 4.9% and the UK average of 3.9%, whilst youth unemployment has increased alomst 30% in the last year, now at 11.1%, again higher than the UK average of 8.3%. For a town that has seen a decline in its economy and prospects of young people, Galloway’ election victory marked a political earthquake and the Westfield occupation is but the first major repercussion on the life of the town of this.

In 2003 Stannifer became the guarantor for a retail development project on the site, who were soon bought out by Chelsfield who in turn were quickly acquired by Australian shopping centre group, Westfield. It was Westfield who, in 2007, mothballed the development claiming they could not secure enough pre-lets and anchor tenants. The latest plans, supposedly close to completion around a year ago, would see a smaller shopping centre, but there doen’t even seem to be any real progress on even this scaled back development. Whilst Westfield can find £1,743m to invest in a shopping centre in Stratford near the Olympic site, they can’t come up with the lesser amount of £345m to invest in Bradford.

In response a group of young Bradfordians occupied the site, demanding that the site be developed immediately. Initially, official society attempted to ignore them, they did gain a meeting with the new leader of Bradford council, only for the council to tell them there was nothing they can do, the original contract didn’t include any provisions for penalty clauses etc.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Westfield seem to have little immediate interest in developing the site, let alone developing the site in a manner of providing facilities that would be a real boon to Bradford. Instead they have persued the occupiers, going through eviction proceedings no doubt with the hope of silencing their campaign. After Westfield were granted a possession order, the occupiers have decided to leave the site, but are camping on the ‘Urban Garden’ which surrounds the site and have vowed to continue the campaign.

The next step must be to demand that the land is removed from the control of Westfield and developed in a socially useful way for the people of Bradford. The council could compulsory purchase the land (the council estimates this would cost £80m), but we would argue that Westfield deserves no compensation given their failure to develop the land and the associated consequences of that (a 2007 report concluded that the failure to develop the site had stifled the cities economic development). A democratic plan for the site could be drawn up by local community groups, trade unions, the occupiers and others as to how the site could be developed.

No doubt the Labour leadership of the council, who have implemented cuts budgets the last two years will say there is no money for this. But this is only because they are refusing to fight the imposition of the Con-Dem cuts, instead of organising a mass campaign to demand the funding the city needs. In the 1980s, the group of 49 councillors on Liverpool City Council refused to implement Thatcher’s cuts and their mass campaign gained the funding to build new houses, leisure centres, nurseries as well as creating council apprenticeships and new parks amongst other things. If Liverpool could do that then, why can’t Bradford do this now?

Given the support that Respect councillors have offered the occupiers, and being elected on a platform of opposing cuts and being in favour of the regeneration of the city, they could be asked to table a motion to this effect at the next full council meeting. The occupiers and other could organise a mass lobby of councillors as they enter the meeting, and they could also use the opportunity to present a petition to this effect to the council. Such a course of action would clearly show which side the councillors were on – developing thecity to imporve the prospects of workers and youth or on the side of the profit-mongering multinationals.

Over 20,000 have signed the occupiers petition in support of them, and as we marched up from the occupation site to the courts we saw people applauding us and joining the protest. It is clear on whose side the ordinary working people of Bradford are on.

Solidarity with the HMRC strikers

Striking PCS members at Shipley HMRC office

Today activists from Youth Fight for Jobs in Yorkshire have been present at PCS HMRC picket lines across the region. Yorkshire YFJ Organiser, Iain Dalton, visited the picket line at Shipley and below we publish some of his thoughts on the day.

“Tax workers have been on strike today against the privatisation of their service which is being trialled in several call centres across the country. I received a warm reception from all the PCS reps picketing outside their office, which included several members of the Young Members Network. But the reps were angry about a whole number of issues, from job cuts (around 10,000 to go in HMRC) to the tax avoidance of the rich which will only increase as a result of these cuts.

“There was also a lot of anger about Cameron’s latest plans to cut housing benefit for under-25s. This came up on numerous occasions as I had to interrupt our discussions to do radio interviews on this issue where I called for rent caps rather than benefit caps and also raised awareness of the strike. Several reps were worried about the situation that could put some of their children in who have moved away from home and currently work, but like many workers their jobs are currently under threat.

“Shipley is where the main processing centre for HMRC, and as such security there is really strict. Last year I came to speak to the branch about the then upcoming Jarrow March for Jobs and I had to wait to be escorted past to checkpoint, and usually the security check everyone’s passes coming in. However, all the security guards at the site are members of PCS so today the security booth was being manned by management who simply waived everyone through. Funny how things like security and health & safety go out the window when there’s a strike to undermine!”

Support the SOVA Strikers

SOVA Dump-It workers picket line, Sheffield

Workers in ‘Dump-It’ recycling centres in Sheffield, employed by SOVA, have taken 15 days of strike action against cuts and job losses. The Dump-It sites have been contracted out by Sheffield City Council to Veolia, who have then subcontracted the service to SOVA, but as the service is self-funding both Veolia and SOVA are making healthy profits off the service. The workers have now voted to take indefinite strike action and require both moral and also especially financial support. Please send to Peter Davies (Sova Strike Fund), GMB office, 188/190 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1SY. Please make cheques payable to GMB. (Email peter.davies@gmb.org.uk)

See below message of support from Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs & Education.

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

We have been following the progress of your dispute with Sova (and ultimately Veolia and Sheffield City Council) and wish you the best of luck in winning your dispute. Just like Cameron and co are trying to make young people work for free, so employers in the public and private sectors are trying to cut the pay, conditions and hours of those in employment. It is urgent that other workers follow your strident example in defending pay, terms and conditions and stop the race to the bottom that big business and the government seem to desire. Services such as the one you work in should be taken out of the hands of profit-mongering private companies and brought back into the public sector. Hard working ordinary people should not be made to pay for the crisis of the banks, rather big business and the rich should be paying to give us a decent standard of living rather than continually pocketing huge profits, bonuses and pay packets whilst unemployment, poverty and homelessness are on the increase.

A few years ago in Leeds, Youth Fight for Jobs supporters offered our support to bin workers in Leeds as they fought to defend their pay succesfully. We will be encouraging our supporters across Yorkshire to offer support and solidarity with your struggle.

Yours,

Iain Dalton,
Yorkshire Organiser, Youth Fight for Jobs and Education
yorkshireyfj.wordpress.com

End the Farcical Trial of Human Rights Activist Vadim Kuramshim

Please see articles for further details on the Campaign Kazakhstan websitewww.campaignkazakhstan.org

Dear Sirs,

We yet again read further curtailment of basic democratic rights in Kazakhstan. Vadim Kuramshim, who is currently being framed in trial blamed for a corruption he was trying to expose, has seen the judge in his trial, Samat Tulesbai, dismiss the jury. The only reason for such an undemocratic move must be that the evidence clearly proves Vadim’s innocence and blows holes that the jury could see in the prosecutions case. This is going on at the same time as the disgraceful trial of workers who took part in the oil workers strike last year and were brutally repressed in Zhanozen but are now incredibly being blamed for the violence.

Earlier this month Youth Fight for Jobs activists in Leeds distributed leaflets during on the annual May Day March highlighting Vadim’s case and the brutal suppression of dissent in Kazakhstan with one of our activists speaking about this at that events rally. We will continue to highlight the attacks on the rights of workers and the poor of Kazakhstan as they make their just demands for a decent life and will step up our campaigning to fight for the freedom of Vadim and others whose only crime was that they wouldn’t kowtow to the demands of a dictatorship.

We demand:

End the farcical trial of Vadim Kuramshim – drop all charges against him now!

Yours,

Iain Dalton,
on behalf of Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs joins Leeds May Day March

Youth Fight for Jobs contingent on the march

Youth Fight for Jobs activists from across Leeds joined trade unionists on Saturday 5th of May to celebrate international workers day. Our contingent was, as ever, the loudest on the march drawing in other people to join us as we marched around the city. At the rally, Youth Fight for Jobs Yorkshrie Organiser, Iain Dalton, spoke on behalf of the  Yorkshire & Humber TUC Youth forum (see video) about the issues facing young people and how we are campaigning against them. YFJ activists have been instrumental to re-invigorating the Youth Forum over the last year which we see as an important part of helping to organise young workers to fight the attacks that the Con-Dems are making against us.

Stop the Harrassment of Activists in Kazakhstan

We have been informed of further arrests and repression of actvists in Kazakhstan, including the arrests of 3 activists in Almaty who have been given 15 days imprisonment. We urge letters of protest to be sent to the General Prosecutor – Gp-rk@prokuror.kz and the Kazakh Embassy – london@kazembassy.org.uk.  For more info see http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5727 and the Campaign Kazakhstan website http://campaignkazakhstan.org/

Dear Sirs,

I am yet again outraged by the treatment of dissenters in Kazakhstan. Not only have the leaders of the free trade union Zhanartu had to flee the country for their own safety, but you are also prosecuting prisoners rights activist Vadim Kuramshim (whose plight we have previously written to you about) as well as oil workers from Zhaozen. The common thread in all these cases is that your state is punishing them for the crime of fighting for an improvement in the conditions of the poor.

We are now informed that your government has arrested Larissa Boyar, Baxatjan Torevozhina and Kanat Ibragimov, snatching them from their homes and imprisoning them for 15 days. The fact that video footage of Larissa Boyar calling for support for the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, a movement in opposition to the capitalist dictatorship your government is presiding over, was used as evidence in the trial confirms the political nature of their imprisonment and repression.

Activists in Youth Fight for Jobs stand side by side with all those fighting injustice and for a better future.

We call for the immediate release of Larissa Boyar, Baxatjan Torevozhina and Kanat Ibragimov as well as the dropping of all charges and an end to the harrassment of the ’Dissenters’

Yours,

Iain Dalton
Yorkshire Organiser of Youth Fight for Jobs

PRESS RELEASE: Lib Dems Savage Young Peoples Future But Candidate Claims to Support Youth Fight for Jobs

Dan and the Jarrow Marchers on their way through Wakefield

It has come to the attention of Youth Fight for Jobs that a Liberal Democrats candidate for the Wakefield Rural ward in this year’s council elections, Finbarr Cronin, has used the campaigns logo on his election material and is claiming he supports the campaign.

Whilst Youth Fight for Jobs seeks to build support for the campaign and publicity for issues around youth unemployment and education cuts, we campaign on a clear basis of opposition to all cuts, demanding real jobs at a decent wage and call for the reintroduction of EMA and scrapping tuition fees.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what the present coalition government including Liberal Democrats has done. The government has presided over savage cuts to public services, as well as scrapping EMA and doing precisely the opposite of Nick Clegg’s pledge to scrap university tuition fees by trebling them.

Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Organiser for Youth Fight for Jobs said, “Up and down the country the Jarrow marchers received huge support from ordinary people and trade unionists. Many of whom were angry at what they felt was a betrayal by Lib Dem leaders over issues such as increasing tuition fees which is likely to put large layers of young working class kids from attending university.”

“If Finbarr Cronin really supports the aims of Youth Fight for Jobs then he should resign from the Liberal Democrats and contest elections on a platform that includes the key demands of Youth Fight for Jobs. This is what Wakefield YFJ activist, Dan Dearden, is doing standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Pontefract North ward.”

Notes

1)      Youth Fight for Jobs received the support of several organisations in the Wakefield area including the Red Shed (Wakefield Labour Club) who hosted the evening event and fed the marchers, Five Towns Brewery who donated a barrel of beer to the event, Ewan McLennan who performed for free at the event and 15th Wakefield Scout group who allowed the marchers to use their hall to stay overnight in, Wakefield Socialist Party and Wakefield Coalition Against Cuts who promoted the march and evening event.

2)      The five key demands Youth Fight for Jobs put forward during the Jarrow March for Jobs 2011 were: Bring back EMA, Scrap university fees, Create decent jobs – not slave labour, Save youth services, Build good, affordable houses for all

Succesful Huddersfield Youth Fight for Jobs Benefit Gig

Joe Solo performing at the gig

Good Friday saw the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign host an evening of Live Music dedicated to raising awareness of the the campaign and of the current injustices being dished out to young people by the Government. The night featured 2 bands, 1 solo artist and a stand up comedian as well as Guest Speaker Iain Daltion – the regional Youth Fight for Jobs organiser. Held in The Parish in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire the night was well attended and enjoyed by all.

T Roberts, Halifax Youth Fight for Jobs

Joe Solo kicked the night off with a unique blend of Folk Musc and Spoken word venting fury at the current system. Stand out songs included a cover of Bankrobber by The Clash and his own song called “Better days will come”, for which the young can only hope! Iain Dalton then highlighted a series of current issues to raise awareness in the audience of why the event was being hosted. The privatisation of the NHS, record levels of youth unemployment, corporate greed, increased tuition fees and the discontinuation of EMA were some issues mentioned and were met with jeers and boos from an empathetic crowd.
Emmott & The Folkestra then took to the stage and played a Folk Rock set which featured songs about the industrial decline of the North and several other atmospheric numbers. Iain then followed following up his earlier speech by encouraging the young members of the audience to join the campaign and get involved with being a solution to the problems in todays society.

Poster publicising the event

Rob Bailey, organiser of the event and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candiate for Brighouse then graced the stage and made an impassioned plea for people to join the workfare protest outside Primark in Huddersfield the following morning (hangovers permitting!) and also encouraged people to join the campaign against the expansion of Kingsgate shopping centre in Huddersfied. The Parish is the oldest pub in Huddersfield (trading since 1720) and is threatened with demolition if the shopping centre is expanded. The pub is close to the hearts of the youth of the town due to its reputation for supporting local bands, independent music culture, strong emphasis on freedom of expression, history and a fine selection of ales and drinks. Venues for young musicians are few and far between and youth cultural establishments are forever being closed down and abandoned by legislative and financial pressures so the proposed expansion of the shopping centre is a direct attack on the youth of Huddersfield to further line the pockets of the high street retailers. This issue will not be forgotten and expect to see the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign supporting this issue to all the way!

The Sail Pattern headlined the event with their own verisons of Folk Classics and some of their own material. Most of the band were under 21 so it was fitting to have a youngest band headlining the night. The event was a great success and raised awareness of both local and national issues in the consciousness of the audience. With young people today sometimes defining themselves based on musical and cultural associations rather than their social class or gender it is important that the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign continues to fully immerse itself in youth culture and raise awareness through the interests and enjoyment of music and cultural events like this. May this be the first of many!

Leeds YFJ Rallies the Resistance to Cuts, Workfare and the Budget

Part of the protest rally in Dortmund Square today

Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs organised a rally against workfare and the cuts as a counter to the further attacks announced against working people today. Over 50 people joined us in Dortmund Square in a protest supported by many local anti-cuts groups this evening, with many people passing by stopping to listen to the speeches being made.

Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Organiser – Youth Fight for Jobs

Speeches included Rhiannon, a YFJ activist currently on the Work Programme; Tanis, a student union officer at Leeds Trinity Union and I spoke as well about how workfare is exploiting retail workers too. We also heard speakers from CND, Keep Our NHS Public, UCU, Unison and PCS, as well as a speech in solidarity with workers facing repression in Kazakhstan (for more info see http://campaignkazakhstan.org/)

Youth Fight for Jobs activists also got a great response to our petition against workfare, with several people asking for more info about Youth Fight for Jobs and quite a few copies of the latest issue of the Spark (YFJ magazine) being sold.

YFJ Protest Against Workfare in Leeds and Wakefield

Protesting Outside Tesco in Leeds on Monday

Following the revelations online and in the media over companies participating in the governments workfare schemes having young people work for them who are recieving only their measly Job Seekers Allowance, activists from Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) held protests in Leeds on Monday and Wakefield on Wednesday demanding real jobs where people get paid the rate for the job, with a guarantee of work at the end of any placements.

Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Organiser, Youth Fight for Jobs

In Leeds, YFJ activists targetted Tesco’s on Monday afternoon with young people stopping and discussing their experiences on workfare with us as well as joining in the protest. No-one we spoke to felt that working for these companies for free had done them any favours and agreed with our demands for real jobs paid at the rate for the job. After Tesco’s caved in and announced it would be offering the remaining 1,500 people, due to be refered to the company under the scheme, the offer of a four week, fully paid job, with a guaranteed job at the end of it (provided they complete the four weeks ‘satisfactorily’ – we await the defenition of this), we decided to move on and target another of the companies in the scheme. At short notice we moved our protest in Wakefield from Tesco to McDonalds and although due to the late change this was not the ideal time to hit this company, we still received a good response from those we spoke to outside the restaurant and interest in other people joining us on future protests.

For upcoming activities in the campaign, see our facebook group – ‘Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs & Education

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