STRIKING NURSERY nurses in eight Scottish councils have again shown their determination to win decent pay and regrading. They have stayed on strike despite intense pressure to return. A mass meeting of nursery nurses in East Ayrshire voted last week to reject the council's latest derisory offer.
The council encouraged 30 scabs to go to the strikers' mass meeting. But the offer was so bad that 14 of the strikebreakers voted with the strikers to kick it out.
Ayrshire Unison union steward Graeme Cummins told Socialist Worker, "I am so proud of the strikers. "They have fought for ten weeks, and there is a real feeling that we deserve something to show for it. The strength of feeling remains. It was a real mistake not to keep going with the national claim. You can't blame the strikers for the union retreating over that."
Strikers in Glasgow and Edinburgh both organised protests that were 300-strong last week. Marie Gordon from Glasgow says, "Of course it's been a long struggle. But what alternative have we got when the councillors treat us like dirt? A lot of people's eyes have been opened up over this. That's why people don't want to go back without winning something real. There is still public support for us. The parents have been fantastic. We need to get solid backing from the union and from other groups of workers now. The chance to win a national deal has gone for the moment. But we don't want to be railroaded into accepting rubbish locally."
The continuation of the strike into the beginning of this week has taken Unison union officials aback. That's even more so as the two biggest areas-Glasgow and Edinburgh-were still out. Since Unison abandoned a national claim two weeks ago shock and anger among strikers have given way to defiance. But some union officials have done their level best over that time to get the strikes called off. You get the distinct impression from some people that they want this over and done with no matter what deal we get," says one Edinburgh striker. The elections are only a couple of weeks away, and this would be really embarrassing for the Labour Party and the Scottish Executive if we were still out. I say that's tough. I don't know many strikers who are considering voting Labour after what its councillors and the Scottish Executive have done to us."
A snap meeting of Unison's national industrial action committee was called for Tuesday of this week. It voted unanimously to keep backing the battle for improved local deals.
"We've got to do everything we can to make sure striking nursery nurses get support," says Donna Borokini, a parent at Holmlea nursery in Glasgow. "Our parents' support group has played a key role in maintaining the strike. We had a really good rally last Thursday, where strikers debated what has happened in the dispute and its lessons. Everyone who supported the nursery nurses, and I mean actively, should be part of that. They have shown us all a thing or two about fighting back. But let's not lose sight of keeping up the solidarity and support for those on strike. As a result of our meeting we did a collection in Glasgow city centre which raised £275 and another which collected £500 at Parkhead."