Socialist Worker

Oxfordshire strike for young people’s future

by Julie Sherry
Issue No. 2266

Youth workers at Oxfordshire county council struck on Tuesday against wholesale job cuts and a huge threat to the services they provide.

The Unite union members voted 93 percent to strike against the “deletion” of 80 jobs.

The Tory-led council is pushing through cuts, which will see youth service funding slashed from £3.7 million to £1.4 million.

The council’s plans threaten 26 youth centres and two detached youth teams.

Strikers fear that the hundreds of vulnerable young people they care for will be pushed out onto the streets.

The strike hit across the county, including prime minister David Cameron’s Witney constituency. Pickets focused on Banbury, where the Tory leader of the council is based. This included a 50-strong protest and a public meeting.

One striker told Socialist Worker, “This is not just about me as a youth worker being made redundant. It’s about the future of young people.

“The centre that faces closure is called New Futures. It should be called no future.

“The impact of the cuts in youth services is going to have a direct impact on the crime figures. This will be the fault of the Tories. Training for youth workers is also under threat.

“JNC workers, who train those on placements, are being scrapped. Bursaries are under threat and fees are increasing.

“We will need more action. This should be the first in a series of strikes. Ordinary people are being screwed on all sides. The recent riots showed more about the society we live in than the riots themselves.”

Charlie Holmes said, “There’s been no consultation with parents and young people. In our contracts we signed up to protect the rights of children. This includes making sure their voices are heard.

Alternative

“Councils are just forcing the cuts through. Our strike is about challenging that and showing there’s an alternative.”

Osmond from Oxford said, “If there’s no fairness there will be riots. The Tories’ attack on student fees has radicalised a generation.”

Karen Beales and Ann-Marie Watts, volunteer youth workers, said, “Young people designed the youth centre in Banbury. Now they’re taking it away from us.”

Karen added, “Under this government you feel like you have no control over your life or the services you want to provide.

“We’ve trained to do a job that really matters, but what do we do now?”

A parent said, “Hopefully this strike will make a difference. My children will be hit by these cuts.”

Unison and CWU union reps visited the picket lines to show support while trades council reps joined the protests as did workers from Oxford, who came on a bus organised by Unite.

The youth workers will need to take more action to force the council to back down. Everyone should support their fight.

Email messages of support to mike.beal@oxfordshire.gov.uk


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Article information

News
Tue 23 Aug 2011, 17:58 BST
Issue No. 2266
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