Stef W, disabled activist and PSN member, reports from Wednesday’s anti-ATOS demonstration in Portsmouth as part of the national day of action.
On the 19th of February the was a national day of action called to protest ATOS’s treatment of it’s victims (euphemistically called service users). The protest had widespread support across the country with a number of demonstrations taking place outside ATOS offices in locations such as Leeds, Portsmouth, Southampton, Chelmsford, Western Super Mare and many more. These actions were supported by a diverse group of organisations which are listed here: http://ukrebellioncom.ipage.com/atosdemo/
ATOS as are a french company who specialise in IT service. In 2012 they had a turnover of 8 billion pounds. The Home Office has a £100m contract with them to provide services. This is a result of the Tory policy of privatising as much as possible. The net result of this is sensitive services are being handled by a company whose only interests are profits. When you look into ATOS the statistics are frightening (10,600 people who died within 6 weeks of the end of their claim in 2011) but what is worse is when you hear the personal stories such as the 47 year old woman who was hounded by ATOS whilst in a coma. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/department-work-pensions-put-girl-3135341
The demonstration in Portsmouth was held outside Wingfield House which houses the offices for ATOS locally and was also the scene of a small occupation against ATOS last year. It was called for 8am in the morning and I arrived slightly late to see a cluster of demonstrators with Unite the Community placards bearing anti-ATOS slogans and a large banner. I was pleased to see a few familiar faces there and a few new ones too. The demonstration fluctuated in size over the hour I attended but was at a steady 8-10 people with constant support from passing vehicle and foot traffic.
A highlight of the day for me was going to the garage across the road from the demonstration only to be offered a leaflet by the cashier who was shocked to learn that ATOS were just over the road.
Overall it was a small but committed group of demonstrators who attended to fight against the crimes that ATOS are commiting with a large percentage of those present directly affected and looking to make their voices heard. I think we can see this as a building block to further national coordinated action and part of a larger struggle against the current government.