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Victorious nursery nurses say: No More Penny-Pinching, End Low Pay
Tower Hamlets (east London) nursery nurses have won their regrading claim. The council eventually backed down and have agreed to pay them approximately £20,000 a year without deductions for the school holidays.
The strikers went back to work on Monday after a three-week strike and impressive campaigning, including a rally outside the town hall. Over 200 nursery nurses, parents and children turned up to the plush docklands office building to lobby the council's Education Chiefs.
Hugo Pierre spoke to Satnam Sokhal, a nursery nurse at John Scurr Primary School, about the strike of low-paid mainly female workers.
"The strike was full steam ahead with the majority of nursery nurses supporting the cause. We were positive because we had such a good case.
"The council were offering us an increase to scale 6 but at the same time attacking our conditions. They wanted to pay us only for working the term time - giving with one hand but taking away with the other.
"They kept adding new conditions to their first offer - saying they would pay us all year round and find us work during the holidays in Social Services day centres.
"We've had lots of parental support and in some schools parents have taken over the school gate campaigning leaving us with little to do. In most schools our teaching and support staff colleagues supported us - some on picket lines before starting work. In staff meetings we had support as well with people speaking up for our case.
"My governing body have been phenomenal and backed us 100%. Some governing bodies have put letters of support out and saw through the penny-pinching of the council negotiators like Helen Jenner, head of Early Years.
"She changed her tune to say we shouldn't work differently from other council workers, even though nationally we've always been a special case! If you read between the lines her original claims of no money were never serious.
"We offered to be paid one scale lower to keep our conditions but they decided to attack our terms and conditions instead.
"The only councillor who supported us is a governor at my school. We had to chase him to support us and now he's done so but only as a parent.
"He was afraid to use his clout to influence the other New Labour councillors.
"We were deflated by the way the council are treating us as low-pay workers. Money goes to money with this government.
"At our mass meeting on Friday, we discussed everything in detail before unanimously accepting the offer. We can go back really confident from the support we received from colleagues, parents and the union that backed our case. We are going to keep in touch and some of us will become stewards."
Victory in this dispute will send a message to UNISON members across the borough that strike action can beat low pay.
Victory in Yorkshire but still on strike in Scotland
Kirklees nursery nurses recently won a regrading battle through strike action. Next week's the socialist will carry an exclusive interview with two of the Unison stewards who led this strike.
The strikes by nursery nurses which began over six weeks ago in Scotland against poverty pay are continuing.
See: www.unison-scotland.org.uk for more information
In The Socialist 12 July 2003: