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Posted on 5 March 2014 at 12:34 GMT

Striking to defend education services in Lewisham

Unite members working for the Attendance and Welfare Service in Lewisham, south London, have voted to take strike action in protest at a 50% staffing cut. The council has agreed to cut 300,000 from the service. This follows a previous cut of 200,000. Workers have spent months lobbying and protesting. The proposal has been taken apart, in a forensic manner, by workers who have provided written response after written response directly to councillors, including engaging fully in the Scrutiny Committee process.

The workers, nearly all of whom are Unite members have demolished every argument put forward by the council. This includes the completely unrealistic proposal from the council whereby they have convinced councillors that schools will fill the gap by buying in the service from the council. Yet, the council admits that it cannot force schools to buy the service in. Council managers have also admitted to Unite that not a single school has so far agreed to buy in. But when councillors asked about the response from schools, managers told councillors that schools had not actively opposed the proposals!

The impact of this cut will be devastating. The service has an enviable record in combatting school truancy by concentrating on early intervention. But the impact of the cut will be less early intervention work and instead a bigger concentration on prosecution of parents - in effect, action once the damage has already been done.

This cut illustrates vividly the futility of the argument that all we need do is vote out the Tories and vote Labour at the next election. Workers who attended the full council meeting that made the decision to cut the service swore that having seen Labour in action, they would never vote Labour again. So the claim that the changes made by Ed Miliband will attract workers to Labour really has been shown by this example to be nonsense - workers hit by cuts are vowing never to vote Labour again, let alone join the party, in any form!

But at the same time workers are showing a willingness to fight. These workers will be taking strike action on 12th March. They will be setting an example to council workers in Lewisham across the borough and lighting the spark to begin a fightback in the borough against the vicious cuts being imposed by a Labour council.

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