Scottish nursery nurses all out over pay

IN WHAT could turn out to be a landmark dispute, 5,000 nursery nurses (nursery classroom assistants) across Scotland have been on all out strike since the beginning of May.

The strike is over pay. Nursery nurses now have a starting salary of a paltry 10,000 which can rise to a maximum of 13,800. The strikers are demanding a 14,000 starting salary and a maximum of 18,000. The strikers, who are members of UNISON, are also determined to defend national bargaining. They are employed by the New Labour dominated Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). COSLA are trying to enforce local deals by each of Scotland's 32 Councils.

This has been a long running dispute. Ten months of selective action brought no progress. Much to the surprise of the employers, a massive 81% of the workers then voted to take all out action.

A number of smaller councils have reached deals but as we go to press, five weeks into the dispute, 21 councils are still holding out and 80% of Scotland's nursery nurses are on strike.

Jill McNaughton, a nursery nurse from Dundee, told The Socialist (Our sister paper in England and Wales) "We're not settling until we get a national deal. But it has to be better than what's been on offer so far. In councils where nursery nurses did sign up to local deals, their hours have been increased and they have been burdened with extra duties and responsibilities."

It is clear that COSLA completely underestimated the determination of these workers and that they have been rocked by the solidarity of the dispute. The rest of the trade union movement should stand behind these workers. Already there has been important support, including financial support from other trade unionists, notably from the Fire Brigades Union. This should be stepped up. The Socialist Party is preparing a solidarity tour of Ireland, North and South, in order to raise money to maintain the strike.

This is a dispute which can have profound implications for other workers. It has shown that, when limited action does not succeed, all out action can be organised and can bring results.

Donations and messages of support should be sent to: Carol Ball, c/o UNISON Scotland, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX

This article is from the April 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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