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Ex-miners and Unite activists join forces in anti-Atos protest

Privateer's Manchester office targeted by angry demonstration over work capability assessments

Former miners joined forces with activists from union Unite to target offices of hated privateer Atos in northern England yesterday.

They joined demonstrations across Britain against the firm slashing disabled people’s benefits as part of the Con-Dems’ dubious work capability assessments programme.

Unite says 10,600 disabled people have died after having their benefits stopped. Some have committed suicide.

Around 70 people staged a noisy protest at Atos’ Manchester offices — bringing together union activists and victims of the government’s cruel attacks on disabled people.

There was also strong support for yesterday’s demonstrations in Yorkshire and the north-east England, where Unite Community has forged links with the National Union of Mineworkers and Durham Miners’ Association.

Unite Community regional organiser Joe Rollin oversaw protests in Hull, Sheffield, Leeds, Durham and Newcastle.

He said: “The mood was one of real anger. There have been a lot of deaths happening, people getting stressed out and suffering mental health problems after their benefits were stopped.”

Ex-miners joined the demonstrations in Sheffield and Durham.

Mr Rollin said: “Atos has had a massive impact on ex-miners. A lot have been on sickness benefit because of injuries at the pit and work-related illnesses.

“They are being declared fit for work but can’t, so they are ‘sanctioned’, their benefits stopped, or put on workfare.”

Unite Community has opened community offices at the NUM headquarters in Barnsley, providing help and advice on benefits, but also training members in community activism.

It is also helping with appeals against Atos decisions.

“Atos loses one-third of its cases on appeal,” Mr Rollin said.

“How many companies with a one-third failure rate would continue to get government contracts?”

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