UK Uncut protests highlight tax-dodging and cuts that hit women

By agency reporter
December 9, 2012

Growing public anger at Starbucks was clear over the weekend as some 40 of their shops across the UK were targeted by protesters against tax-dodging.

The anti-cuts direct action network, UK Uncut, organised demonstrations in London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Shrewsbury and other towns and cities on 8 December 2012.

In central London a creche and women's refuge were set up in Starbuck's flagship stores, and in Birmingham people slept in sleeping bags on the floor to highlight homelessness.

In Barnet, activists turned Starbucks into a library, while in York protesters handed out free tea and coffee in store.

The group took action to confront the company over its tax avoidance and highlight the impact of the government's cuts on women.

The group says that Starbucks' offer to 'volunteer' £10 million per year over two years is a "PR stunt straight out of their marketing budget".

Starbucks and other companies accused of tax-dodging, including Google and Amazon, have had to face increasing public outrage and stinging criticism from the Public Accounts Committee over their tax practices this week.

Nearly £5 billion new cuts were announced by George Osborne on 5 December in the Westminster autumn budget statement.

Protesters say that they chose to target Starbucks as a result of its tax avoidance practices. They say that the government should be clamping down on tax avoidance by companies such as Starbucks rather than making cuts to the welfare state and the NHS which are devastating people's lives.

Women's groups and local UK Uncut groups from Glasgow to Belfast to Cornwall participated in their biggest national day of action yet. Sit-in style protests saw Starbucks branches transformed into refuges, crèches and homeless shelters to highlight the disproportionate impact of the government's spending cuts on women.

Sarah Greene, a UK Uncut activist said: "It is an outrage that the government continues to choose to let multinationals like Starbucks dodge millions in tax while cutting vital services like refuges, creches and rape crisis centres. It does not have to be this way. The government could easily bring in billions by clamping down on tax avoidance that could fund vital services by clamping down on tax dodging."

Responding to Starbucks’ announcement that it will not claim tax deductions in the UK on a range of its tax arrangements and Starbucks statement regarding worker safety, Hannah Pearce, a UK Uncut supporter said: “Offering to pay some tax if and when it suits you doesn’t stop you being a tax dodger."

She added: "This is just a PR stunt straight out of the marketing budget in a desperate attempt by Starbucks to deflect public pressure - hollow promises on press releases don’t fund women’s refuges or child benefits."

A spokesperson from Global Women's strike, one of the women's groups supporting Saturday's action commented: "Women – in families, homes, communities and jobs – bear the brunt of austerity. At our Women’s Centre we see more women cut off benefits, losing their jobs, being made homeless and going hungry. Already, 3.5 million children live in poverty, 1 in 5 mothers skips a meal to feed her children, and many walk miles to get food handouts because they can’t afford the bus fare.

"Women are also expected to pick up the pieces as services disappear or turn people away, saying they are overwhelmed. Asylum seekers were the first to be made destitute, and this is now becoming the norm. Victims of rape and domestic violence are particularly affected as more will be forced to stay in violent relationship to keep a roof over their heads."

Starbucks has come under fire after a Reuters investigation disclosed that the company had paid no UK corporation tax in the last three years, despite reporting sales of £1.2 billion.

The company was also reported to have filed accounts saying the company's UK operations were making a loss, while reporting strong UK profits to investors.

Campaigners have highlighted research showing that women will experience a disproportionate impact as a result of the government's public spending cuts.

Women are bearing the brunt of cuts to public sector jobs, wages, housing benefit, childcare, and pensions, they point out.

Additional hardship to women is being caused by the government's decision to cut £5.6 million from violence against women services, £300 million from Sure Start centres and a further £10 billion in benefit cuts. Every day 230 women are turned away from refuges as a result of the government's cuts to women's services, they say.

* UK Uncut


Sheena Shah, a UK Uncut activist said "Women have had enough of being attacked by a cabinet of out-of-touch millionaires. The government's savage austerity plans are pushing the cause of women's equality back decades. Welfare, healthcare, Sure Start centres, childcare, rape and domestic abuse services are being cut and female unemployment is rocketing. Benefits cuts are forcing women to choose between heating the house and feeding the family. No one should have to make these choices."

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