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Protest walk from Dartford to Gravesend over job cuts

PUBLISHED: 12:38 15 June 2011 | UPDATED: 12:46 15 June 2011

Kent Save Our Services protest: Members of UNISON, who work at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, are angry about a volunteer workforce which is taking their paid work.

Kent Save Our Services protest: Members of UNISON, who work at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, are angry about a volunteer workforce which is taking their paid work.

Archant

Members of nine separate unions, all fearful about impending job cuts, held the first of four protest walks today.

About 20 protestors met at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, where staff claim volunteers are being used to replace them.

Waving banners they walked the short distance to Dartford Borough Council offices to voice their opposition to the measure instigated by HQ Theatres who run the facility on behalf of Dartford Borough Council.

The movement, Kent Save Our Services, includes members from UNISON, GMB, Unite, PCS, RMT, NASUWT, NUT, UCU, Aspect and FBU

Stephen Warner, UNISON branch secretary for Dartford, said: “We wanted to join this walk to highlight the issue here at the theatre.

“There are many issues but effectively the paid workforce is being replaced by volunteers.”

Theatre usher and bar worker Claire Cooper, 35, from Dartford, said: “I still work here but I want to fight this all the way.

“At the busiest times like Christmas you would expect to get a lot of work but this is now seriously reduced.”

Leaving Dartford at about 10am they set off for North West Kent College, Chalk, were 65 members of staff face redundancy due to budget cuts.

Zoe Van Dyk, of Unison, said: “The walk will roughly trace the route of the Pilgrims’ Way and it will be telling the ‘story’ of the devastating cuts to our public services and job losses throughout Kent.”

The group will conduct three further walks from Medway to Maidstone on Wednesday, Ashford to Canterbury on June 30 and finally Thanet to Dover July 9.

HQ Theatres refused to comment on the action.

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