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Scottish nursery nurses:
"We're Not Settling Until We Get A National Deal"
MORE THAN 4,000 nursery nurses across Scotland are entering their fifth week of all-out strike action as we go to press. With 80% still out on strike, the local government employers, New Labour-dominated CoSLA, completely miscalculated the energy and determination of this workforce - almost all of whom are women.
The 21 councils still in dispute seem to be preparing to discuss with UNISON a possible national deal for nursery nurses. For months the employers insisted on all negotiations being on a local council-by-council basis where nursery nurses would be paid different rates in every local authority area. Nursery nurses have consistently demanded a unified deal across Scotland.
If the employers are now forced to discuss a national settlement, that's because of the nursery nurses' determined action and the huge public support for their struggle.
This strike has also been about improving the nursery nurses' pay. A national deal based on CoSLA's "framework" - offered as a guide to local councils last year - gave an extra 11p an hour on nursery nurses' pay.
Jill McNaughton from Dundee told us: "We're not settling until we get a national deal. But it has to be better than what's been on offer so far."
The CoSLA framework also proposed nursery nurses would work more hours each week for their increase. In reality this would lead to an overall hourly pay cut when the extra hours were factored in.
Jill explained: "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."
Janis, a nursery nurse from the Highland region of Scotland who signed up to a local deal wrote into the UNISON website: "Highland area have been given more hours, less holidays, less holiday pay. The job description has also been rewritten to include duties and responsibilities formerly done by teachers. Don't be sold the same."
It's vital that UNISON nationally don't simply accept the idea of a national offer as a basis for an agreement or the suspension of the action unless there are major concessions by the employers on pay.
"We haven't been involved in strike action for almost a year with an all-out strike for five weeks to end up working more hours for a lower hourly rate of pay," said Jill.
Nursery nurses have the employers on the run. Solidarity action should be stepped up. On 12-13 April the next round of action by civil servants in PCS is taking place. Plans should be discussed urgently for joint days of action and demonstrations in all areas of nursery nurses and PCS members with an appeal to other public-sector workers to take part, supporting the fight against low pay.
Pay the nursery nurses their full claim of a starting salary of £14,000 rising to £18,000, depending on the years worked, with no strings!
Rush donations and messages of support to the nursery nurses. Carol Ball, c/o UNISON Scotland, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX.
In The Socialist 3 April 2004:
Workplace news and events
International socialist news and analysis