Unite members working in early intervention for Oxfordshire county council will stage a 24-hour walk-out on Tuesday 16 February after voting overwhelmingly in favour of strike action over the council’s plans to shut all of its 44 children centres and seven early intervention (EIS) hubs, including in prime minister David Cameron’s Witney constituency.
Unite, the country’s biggest union, which represents staff in the EIS hubs, has accused the council of turning its back on children, young people and their families as it pushes ahead with plans to slash £8 million from its children services budget for 2016/17 – a 50 per cent funding cut.
The strike action comes hard on the heels of the prime minister’s intervention, as MP for Witney, when he wrote to the Tory council leader, Ian Hudspeth in September to complain about the ‘counter-productive’ cuts to frontline services in his own constituency.
The prime minister’s position has been further undermined by reports today (9 February) that his own mother, Mary Cameron, has put her name to a petition to save dozens of children’s centres in the county.
The union’s members voted by 83 per cent in favour of strike action and will strike for 24 hours from midnight on 15 February to midnight on 16 February. A picket line will be outside Oxford county hall from 08:00 on 16 February.
Chris Gray Unite regional officer said: “The last thing our members want to do is take strike action. They are highly skilled professionals and deeply committed to the children, young people and the families they work with, day in and day out.
“But they have decided that they cannot sit back and watch while the council denies Oxfordshire’s young people a future and destroys its top class children’s early intervention service.
“In writing that letter, David Cameron has exposed the two-faced nature of his stance, by urging austerity from central government on the one hand, and then taking the council leader to task for implementing his government’s own policies.
“The prime minister and his Tory council leader would do well to remember that our members work with some of the county’s most vulnerable families. The one to one support they provide on issues from domestic abuse to help with self-harm and drug and alcohol misuse is vital to turning lives around.
“The council risks turning its back on the county’s young people and badly letting down the families that rely on these services. We are urging people to show their support for this vital service which gives Oxfordshire’s young people a start in life by joining us on the picket line on Tuesday 16 February outside Oxford county hall OX1 1ND from 08:00.”
For more information please contact, Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774146777
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey