SUPPORT IS flooding in for 4,500 nursery nurses in Scotland who began their third week on all-out strike on Monday. A delegation of strikers arrived in London on Tuesday to spend four days visiting branches and workplaces. The strength of the strike and the solidarity are putting immense pressure on COSLA, the Labour-dominated local employers.
Hundreds of strikers protested outside the Scottish Parliament last week demanding that its executive intervene in favour of a decent national settlement. A motion calling for that got 44 votes with 77 against. But the strike has deepened tensions between the executive and local councils, which met together last weekend.
Far from crumbling, as Scottish local authority employers have been claiming, the strike is spreading. On Tuesday of this week nursery nurses in Angus council joined the action. Their local Unison union officials had pulled them out of the national strike just before it started.
'Now we've overturned that and are coming out,' says a nursery nurse in Angus. 'There are two issues at stake. The local offer is unacceptable. In any case, many of us think that winning a national agreement is a point of principle. This shows it is nursery nurses pushing this dispute and not the union. Indeed, some sections of the union really ought to catch up with how the nursery nurses feel.'
The number of nursery nurses joining the strike in Angus, about 100, more than compensates for the couple of dozen in Dumfries and Galloway where the local union has suspended action to consider a local deal. The total number of nursery nurses in those branches that have suspended action remains at about 300 out of 5,000 across Scotland. The striking nursery nurses are tapping a groundswell of support.
Single parent Lorraine Scott told Scotland's best selling daily paper, the Daily Record, that her four year old son, Steven, has special needs. 'He talks, but his speech has not developed at the rate it should,' she said. 'Over the last couple of months, however, there's been a surge of language from him at nursery. The nursery nurses and auxiliary staff spend a lot of one-to-one time with him. But, while the strike is affecting my son, I definitely support the nursery nurses 100 percent.
'They've worked wonders for Steven. My grievance is with the officials.' Words like that are translating into hefty donations where strikers get out on the streets and into workplaces to put their case. 'There must have been thousands of pounds in collections handed in at our Glasgow mass meeting last week,' says Anne Donald, a striker at Holmlea nursery in Glasgow.
'It really lifted the atmosphere, which was pretty confident anyway. We voted overwhelmingly against going for a local settlement and to stick out for national. That's the right thing. It also means that stronger areas like Glasgow can help lift up less well organised areas. We are collecting regularly and have a parents' support group. The United Left group in Unison is also producing a regular strike bulletin. That helps counter the propaganda from the employers. Three weeks on we are as determined as ever.' Regular collections are up and running among members of the GPMU, FBU, EIS, AUT and other unions.
'We had a striker talk to students studying to be nursery nurses,' says Malcolm Williamson, a lecturer at Langside College in Glasgow. 'The students know the strikers are fighting for them and they certainly do not want to be used on placements to break the strike.'
Liz McCulloch from East Ayrshire echoed that message. She said, 'I went to Newcastle on Monday and got a fantastic response from Unison members. We need to publicise our strike throughout the trade union movement.'
'The strike is strong and support from parents and the public has not wavered,' Carol Ball, Unison convenor of the nursery nurses' dispute, told a mass meeting. 'We are holding out for a national settlement. We are winning that argument.'
Michelle Stewart from Kinning Park nursery says, 'Despite all the dirty tricks from the council we are standing firm. Our parents are still behind us. I'd really like to thank them and everyone else who is backing us. 'Step up the support. There's light at the end of the tunnel. We can win.' In many areas nursery nurses have become more involved in running the dispute as it has gone on and have also made links with other trade unionists and activists.
Ten striking nursery nurses came to a forum in Dundee to discuss the miners' strike. The nursery nurses' strike is the biggest all-out official strike in Britain for many years. Everyone should get behind them.
Make cheques payable to 'Nursery Nurses' Campaign Fund' and send to Unison, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX. Phone 08707 737 006 for speakers.
Solidarity rushing in
THERE IS huge support for the nursery nurses. Strikers and supporters from North Lanarkshire and Glasgow collected over £1,000 at the Celtic vs Barcelona football match last week. Some £313 was collected at Partick Thistle's game on Saturday and £210 on Argyle Street in Glasgow in less than an hour.
An Amicus union member at Scottish Power in Edinburgh collected £140 at a union meeting. Lecturers at Dundee university have collected over £100. A council worker in Glasgow collected £70 in work, another in Edinburgh collected £40 in just one afternoon.
The EIS teachers' union at Langside College in Glasgow organised a lunchtime meeting with the strikers, to which 55 people came including nursery nurse students. Some £60 was collected and now the students are planning events to raise money for the strikers.