Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Debt Collection: the booming industry

I would've posted this earlier but had my arm twisted to go the pub by various union bods in my workplace. Well, that was my early evening down the pan though explained to them that I drank quite a lot the previous night. Their reaction, "Get this whisky down your neck, girl"! Actually I refrained and stayed on the orange juice all evening (honest Stroppy One I did). The conversation ranged from Rosa Luxemburg ("she had real balls, that one"!), democratic centralism, anti-imperialism and the SWP. Oh what a night of drunken debate and argument and knowing that lot they're still at it now. And I stuck to the orange juice and left reasonably early.

Got home and saw advertised this documentary on bailiffs tonight. When I interviewed an eighty-odd year old Socialist over 20 years ago for my 'O' Level History project, he spoke about defending people against bailiffs. They organised themselves quickly once word got around that the bailiffs were on their way. The tactic was to surround the house and use furniture as obstacles to force the bailiffs back. He told me they were pretty successful as they were always able to mobilise themselves immediately. This was Smethwick during the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, you don't seem to get the same collective action against bailiffs nowadays. Instead debt collection is a booming business. The profits they make are off the backs of poor and powerless people. They are not regulated by the state so they go unchecked. They con, steal, scare and flout the law. And who gives a damn as it is usually the most impoverished in this society who have the bailiffs on their doorstep.

The two companies this undercover journalist worked for was CCS Enforcement Services Ltd and Drakes Group, who are, incidentially, used by Lib-Dem/Tory Southwark Council to collect council tax arrears. Both these organisations state that there will be an internal investigation into the behaviour of their employees. So it just a couple of rogue bailiffs then? Of course it is not!! The business of debt collection revolves around power and fear. The whole ethos is to screw people on behalf of the agency they are employed by. Does Southwark worry about tactics of these two organisations? I doubt it. I really wish there was collective action against bailiffs similar to what Arthur told me about all those years ago.