youth workers vote to fight


YOUTH AND COMMUNITY workers have voted overwhelmingly to take part in industrial action up to and including strikes. Members of the Community and Youth Workers Union (CYWU) gave a clear message to the employers that they were no longer prepared to be treated as the poor relations in the education sector.

The dispute is about pay, qualifications and the establishment of a Senior Practitioner Grade. The employers are yet to make any formal offer, which has incensed members. They are sick and tired of the same old arguments about affordability. CYWU has organised three National Conferences/rallies all extremely well attended. At these events speaker after speaker has said enough is enough. A substantial increase is needed for workers in this field to bring them more into line with others in the education sector.

The argument around qualification is an interesting one. While other professions that work with young people either want to increase the qualification required or retain it, the employers in this sector want to reduce the qualification. This would mean that instead of a degree, certificate or diploma, you would need only NVQ2 — and that within two years of starting employment. This is seen by all in this sector to be detrimental to both the profession and to young people and the communities they work with. Workers are already overworked because another 4000 qualified staff are needed nationally to meet the government's targets for the number of youth workers.

CYWU has been arguing for a Senior Practitioner grade for a number of years. At present there are discretionary points at the top of the scale that employers can use. CYWU wants an established grade to recognise the additional responsibilities of those working at the top of the scale not points that can be awarded at the discretion of the employer.

In another twist to this dispute the Staff Side of the Joint Negotiating Committee has had nobody to negotiate with. The employers' side has now got its negotiating team but is refusing to inform the trade unions of who is on it. What have they got to hide or be afraid of? The position at present is that there is no formal pay offer, the staff side do not know who they will be negotiating with, and industrial action begins on 1 March. This will be the first phase of action that could be added to if no real progress is made. Feeling is also running high because the claim was submitted last July, with a settlement date of 1 September.

CYWU members are well aware that the only way they can get anywhere near a decent overall settlement is by taking action nationally for the first time in the union's history. The alternative was do nothing, allow a dumbing-down of the profession, wait for a formal offer on pay and accept the employers' discretion as far as senior practitioners go. For the members there was clearly only one choice.