FIVE THOUSAND nursery nurses struck over pay in Scotland last week. The five days of strikes were staggered so workers at nurseries in different regions took action starting on different days. Scottish nursery nurses have not had their pay scales regraded for 15 years. After working for ten years a nursery nurse can expect to earn a maximum of £13,800.
The nursery nurses want to be paid between £17,340 and £21,732. As part of their action they lobbied councils around Scotland. Some of the nursery nurses at a lively 200-strong lobby of Renfrewshire spoke to Socialist Worker. Our workload has increased in the 15 years since we were last regraded,' said Trisha. 'We now have to do much more paperwork. I think the five-day strike will make a difference. The strike is strong nationally and we have had support from parents.'
She was critical of the employers' body, Cosla, which is responsible for recommending pay rates across Scotland: 'The people who sit on Cosla have no idea of the work that we do.'
Louise added, 'This dispute is the first time I've been on strike. It is going well, everyone is sticking together. We've been picketing our nursery. Lots of people tooted their horns when they drove past, like during the firefighters' dispute. Striking for five days will have more impact, but I think it will be a long dispute. At the moment the council isn't listening, so we will be out again.'
Elane, a parent from Paisley, attended the protest to show her support. She said, 'I think they do a marvellous job. They should get their pay rise. I was disgusted when I found out how little they earn.'
The dispute has lasted six months. Some of the nursery nurses are beginning to question the strategy of calling one-day strikes and now a five-day strike. Workers at the Moorcroft Children's Centre, which looks after children with special needs, told Socialist Worker, 'Some of us want to go on all-out strike. Most of the nursery nurses believe that. But the union advised us not to. Five days is the longest we've been out. Some of the councils have reached settlements locally. Where that has happened the job descriptions of the nursery nurses have changed. They are not good deals. Pay should be decided across Scotland. The parents are supporting us. They realise the work we do and they are surprised by our pay.'
Nursery nurses in the same union, Unison, in Tower Hamlets, London, won a brilliant victory in July this year when they went on all-out strike for three weeks. The council was forced to give pay rises of up to £4,459. They organised their own strike committee and ran a lively campaign, winning support for their dispute from parents and other groups of workers.
One of the workers told Socialist Worker after the victory, 'One-day strikes don't have enough impact. This all-out action is much more effective.'