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Youth workers strike across Oxfordshire
Youth workers across Oxfordshire, including prime minister David Cameron's Witney constituency, took strike action on 23 August in response to the Tory-led county council plans to slash youth service funding from £3.7 million to £1.4 million.
These cuts threaten 26 youth centres, including the centre where Cameron held his press conference on the riots last week, and two youth teams, as well as the removal of the nationally-negotiated JNC terms and conditions.
This spells the end of professional youth work in Oxfordshire, replacing qualified youth workers with non-professional managers and volunteers. With Unite members voting 93% to strike against the "deletion" of 80 jobs.
Over 50 workers, youth and supporters joined the vibrant protests and pickets that focused on Banbury, where the Tory leader of the council is based.
Mike Beal, youth worker and chair of the Oxfordshire branch of Unite, denounced the plans as "absolute nonsense". Speaking on the picket line in Banbury, he said: "You can't cut a budget from £3.7 million to £1.4 million and then expect the remaining service to get money from elsewhere. Where is the elsewhere?"
A 60+ strong (and musical) public meeting of strikers, youth and parents rounded off the day's action. A number of young people emotionally spoke of the vital service and structure the youth workers give to them and their lives.
One lad threatened to kick down the doors if his local centre was closed and occupy it with his mates. Doug Nicholls, national officer of the CYWU section of Unite, along with local reps, made it clear that the staff and users of the service will "take further strike action and occupy if it's needed".
A union branch meeting later this week will confirm if another day of strike action takes place next week to take the protests and pickets to Cameron's heartland of Witney.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 August 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.