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Civil servants and police join protests
MINISTRY of Defence workers, prison officers, job centre staff and college teachers walked out on strike over Government cuts and pension changes yesterday.
Hundreds of workers joined picket lines around the county as unions united to protest over cuts to pensions, jobs and services.
And about 200 Oxfordshire police officers took a day off work to take part in a march through London to protest against reductions in police funding.
Union officials said classes were cancelled at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College’s campuses at Oxpens and Blackbird Leys in Oxford, while appointments at Oxford and Witney job centres were rescheduled.
In Bicester, scores of staff at the MoD supply depot walked out and officers from Bullingdon Prison also took part in pickets.
OCVC teacher Julia Henderson, a member of the University & College Union, said: “We had quite a good number of students join us on the picket line showing their support.
“Most students understood why we were striking, as we explained to them when classes were cancelled.”
Anne Wilstead, the college’s head of marketing and customer service, said: “It hasn’t affected the running of the college at all. Very few members of staff took part in the demonstration.”
Kate Douglas, a job centre worker in Oxford and branch secretary of the PCS union’s Oxon & Bucks Department of Work and Pensions branch, said: “They will say it did not affect job centres, but actually it does affect the service, as they have had to cancel appointments and signing on.”
She said about 100 staff from Oxford’s Worcester Street job centre took part and 10 colleagues picketed the Witney office, in Station Lane.
At MoD Bicester, the PCS and Unite unions joined forces to picket across three sites at the supply depot south of the town.
Les Sibley, Unite’s convener at the depot, said: “We had about 50 people on the gates and a lot of people didn’t turn into work today. Workers are saying enough is enough.
“We have been handing out leaflets about why we are taking action. People have been very supportive and understand what the issues are.”
He said supplies to troops were not affected by the strike action.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, said: “It’s very disappointing that a handful of unions insist on carrying on with futile strike action, which will benefit no-one.
“We would urge these union leaders to reconsider their position.
“Pension talks will not be reopened and nothing further will be achieved through strike action.”
In London, the Oxfordshire police officers and hundreds of Thames Valley colleagues took part in a 20,000-strong march organised by the Police Federation.
Four coaches collected off-duty police officers from Banbury, Bicester, Witney and Abingdon to take them to the capital.
Sgt John Bearn, who is based at Kidlington, has served with the force for 20 years and yesterday took part in his first protest march.
He said: “For me it was about the future of the police service and not just myself.”
Chief Constable Sara Thornton declined to comment.
- Union leaders said more than 400,000 workers across the UK took part in the day’s action, but ministers questioned the number, claiming that only 100,000 joined the strike.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, told a rally in London: “There will be more strikes in June, at the end of the summer, the winter, next spring and on and on and on.”