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Kirklees nursery nurses: Labour's Low Pay Scandal
ON 16 JUNE, nursery nurses in Kirklees, Yorkshire will once again be taking to the streets to collect more signatures in support of their local pay claim. They have already collected nearly 4,000 names and spirits are high amongst the members. This time they'll be attracting the public with a bouncy castle as well as other local child-centred attractions. JILL HINCHCLIFFE, one of the organisers and a UNISON member explains the background to the dispute:
"Kirklees nursery nurses' current grades are an insult to this professionally qualified, highly committed group of staff working in education. We supported teachers to gain pay rises and celebrated with teaching assistants when they won a new pay structure and job descriptions.
"Imagine our continued disappointment, frustration and anger as Kirklees council overlooks us again. We are not even sure that those who employ us actually know what our jobs entail.
Letters addressed to the education director and the chair of the education committee have all had unsupportive and negative responses. There has not been one word of sympathy or understanding on our behalf from those who employ us, being told instead that nursery nurses must wait for a national pay claim. What pay claim?
"Other councils have finally recognised the value and expertise that nursery nurses offer in educating young people and have rewarded them with a career/pay structure that reflects their continued professionalism. Not Kirklees council!
"Instead, nursery nurses are forced to campaign to gain the recognition they deserve, with the support of the public they serve, who have been wonderful."
At this week's UNISON conference, there are resolutions calling for national action around school support staff and nursery nurses. The recent demo of nursery nurses in Glasgow shows that more and more of these workers are finding their voice.
It is up to UNISON to ensure that it is heard and new pay structures are put in place for these workers who can only earn a maximum of just under £12,000 a year.
The Kirklees nursery nurses have drawn up a charter for a better deal. Copies of the charter are available from: Kirklees UNISON, 20 Queen Street, Huddersfield HD1 2SP. Tel: 01484 223577. Please send messages of support to the same address
In The Socialist 15 June 2001: