My first blog on this site in October 2013 was on foodbanks and class solidarity.
Over three years have passed, and the PCS Scotland foodbank point continues to receive regular donations. Our food collections are not charity, they are acts of solidarity from public sector trade union members to our communities of the destitute and abandoned. Through the catastrophic deliberate removal of the welfare safety net, the government has embedded poverty and desperate dependency on food handouts in place of social security and decency. We cannot accept this disgraceful state of affairs.
Solidarity is a core trade union principle. Whilst abhorring the necessity of foodbanks, we do not turn away from those in our society who have become dependent on them. Until decency is restored we will continue to regularly donate food for people for whom the welfare safety net has been ripped away. Real practical human solidarity is necessary in the face of forced poverty.
We have worked with the Trussell Trust who provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis throughout the UK. The food generously donated by PCS members coming in to our office makes a difference to hundreds of lives in Glasgow. More so, many union branches inspired by this solidarity initiative now run regular workplace donations, linking workers solidarity to those most suffering in the local communities.
The PCS ‘welfare alternative’ view is to counter the root cause of poverty with investment. Foodbank handouts are no alternative to dignity in having enough money to buy food. A decency threshold is as much about the welfare safety net as properly-resourced public services. A fair and just social security system is the bedrock on any decent society.
Now more than ever, the plight of those who fall foul of restrictive benefit rules are anguished. This month, PCS along with People’s Assembly groups and Unite Community are participating in free community showings of “I, Daniel Blake”. This award winning film is the seminal work of Ken Loach. It depicts painfully and honestly the reality of welfare reform, benefit cuts and sanctions on everyday people. I am proud that Ken and screenwriter Paul Laverty, came to our office when researching the film.
Meanwhile cuts to social security continue, which the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee estimate will claw another £1bn taken from those who need it most in years to come. Access to welfare services too are under attack through jobcentre and DWP office closures, and cuts to vital public services.
As trade unionists we raise our fist against the draconian welfare reform agenda, and we also reach our other hand out in practical solidarity to our sisters and brothers in hard times. We fight together for services and a better welfare state and we look after each other where it fails.
PCS Scotland’s first food donation this year is to Castlemilk Against Austerity, a grassroots community organisation that works with PCS to oppose the proposed closure of the local jobcentre. CAA collect tinned and dry food and also money (to buy fresh products) and have sent us this message:
“This Valentines Day, ditch the cards, flowers, chocolates, cuddly toys and donate to our Food Solidarity Market and spread the Love. On the day there will be music, fresh food, face painting and friends spreading the love.”