COUNCIL employers were clearly coming under pressure as the strike by nearly 5,000 nursery nurses in Scotland entered its fourth week on Monday. Seven local authorities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, issued a joint statement saying they were prepared to come to local pay settlements with the nursery nurses. 'Our reply to that is simple,' the nursery nurses' Unison union convenor Carol Ball told Socialist Worker.
'We want a national agreement covering the whole of Scotland. A mass meeting of strikers in Glasgow confirmed that on Monday afternoon. The move by the seven councils shows our action is working. But if they are serious about ending this dispute they need to get CoSLa, the employers' Scottish-wide body, to negotiate a settlement with us.'
Nursery nurses from several different areas told Socialist Worker that the strike is, if anything, stronger now than when it began. There are 4,687 nursery nurses on strike. 'Our determination in Fife has just grown and grown,' Margaret Kopicki, a nursery nurse at Torbain nursery, Kirkcaldy, told Socialist Worker as she collected on Saturday's anti-war march in London.
'I'm saying to people that the government has got £6 billion for war, yet they say they can't pay us a decent wage. I am even more angry now about the way we have been treated than when the strike started. The same goes for others in Fife. The employers and the Scottish Executive thought we were just a bunch of women who would give up after a couple of days. Well, we've shown we won't be trodden on. It's clear to me now that one big reason why they won't give us the regrading and pay rise we deserve is that it will set an example for others. They are worried other people might jump on the bandwagon. I say, 'Good.' In fact, other people shouldn't wait but should get on the bandwagon now.'
Wherever the strikers take their message they are tapping enormous reserves of support. Parents still remain firmly behind the strike especially after it was revealed last week that councils are to raise nursery fees by as much as two thirds. North Lanarkshire council has already sent letters telling parents that hourly nursery rates will rise from £1.50 to £2.50.
In every council parents are blaming the employers and not the strikers for the threatened rises. Council bosses' only response is to spread disinformation, claiming support for the strike is faltering in one area or another.
'We've wised up to those tricks,' says Jill McNaughton from Dundee. 'We found out about the strength of feeling in Glasgow and passed that on to our lot within a couple of hours. That kind of communication is vital. So is getting out there and pulling in the support for the strike.'
The nursery nurses urgently need money to continue their fight. Make cheques payable to 'Nursery Nurses' Campaign Fund' and send them to Unison, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX.
If you would like to invite a nursery nurse to speak at your union meeting, phone 07986 422 203.
'Coming out on strike has transformed me'
TWO STRIKERS from Dundee-Jill McNaughton and Loraine Millar-were in London on a solidarity tour last week. In three days they collected over £3,000 at 15 meetings, including addressing the packed gig for Unite Against Fascism at the London Astoria.
'We never thought we could do anything like this,' Jill told Socialist Worker. 'Now I really believe everyone should do this kind of thing. It makes you feel sky high. We're going back to Dundee determined to make sure it's nursery nurses ourselves who run this dispute.'
Loraine added, 'I only joined the union at the start of the dispute. We were so nervous about doing all these meetings. But the response has been brilliant. This strike has transformed me. I'm picketing and not deterred when the police take down my licence number. We've already won something, no matter what the final outcome is. We've won some self respect, and we won't be going back to what we put up with before.'
'We've learnt who's on our side and who's not,' says Jill. 'Lots of union officials are getting behind us, but there are some who are not doing what they should be. We've got to change that. I think the whole Unison council membership in Scotland should be out for one day. Why can't we strike together over pay?'
Tuesday 16 March
Millwall fire station: First stop, a meeting of the FBU union. Feeling nervous, but great reception. Firefighters tell us that going all out is the right thing to do.
The Independent: Dash off to meet members of the National Union of Journalists at the Independent, Canary Wharf.
Tower Hamlets: An evening meeting of people from different unions in east London. Lots of collections are up and running.
London Astoria: Invited to speak at packed London Astoria gig for the Unite Against Fascism coalition. A real highpoint. Message gets out to 2,000 young people.
Wednesday 17 March
London Unison local government committee: Representatives from union branches across London. We get a £1,000 official donation and our message out.
UCLH: Great meeting at central London hospital. UCL: Nip round corner to a big university Unison branch.
Stop the War Coalition meeting: Lots of understanding when we say Blair and Brown have money for war but not to pay us.
Haringey Unison AGM: Another big meeting with lots of union activists in north London.
RMT meeting: Taken round RMT headquarters. Real support there. Big confidence boost. Get to meet Bob Crow.
Thursday 18 March
London Region FBU: Again clear backing. Donation is bargained up to £500. Plus collection sheets going out.
Homerton Hospital: Great time at this east London hospital. Union members just set up a stall near the canteen. We get to speak to people while they are working or having a break. Proves you don't have to wait for formal union meeting.
Lambeth Town Hall housing rally: One of us used to be a housing worker. People facing same problems of low pay, restructuring and the job insecurity.
European Social Forum organising meeting: Union activists and others there. Good to be part of the mix.
Respect coalition meeting: Good to see people standing up to New Labour. Head home bloody exhausted, but exhilarated. Collected £3,535. Determined to get other people doing the same thing.