More than 4,000 of Scotland’s nursery nurses still in dispute with local councils are to ballot on an all-out indefinite strike.
It is a serious escalation of a crucial battle for justice that has been going on for more than seven months.
Carol Ball is a Glasgow nursery nurse and the chair of Unison Scotland’s nursery nurse working party. She told Socialist Worker, ‘We have been forced to take this action because there has not been any movement from the employers.
‘We have had selective strikes and days of action, and petitions and lobbying by staff and parents. But the employers have not been moved to give us a decent offer. We have canvassed all our branches about what they feel should be done, and the clearest and most popular option was to move to an all-out strike.
‘The recommendation from Unison Scotland is strongly that nursery nurses should vote yes to all-out. We do not want to inconvenience parents and children, but low pay and a lack of proper recognition for the vital job we do does not help anyone.
‘COSLA, the local councils’ body, says it wants local settlements. But local authorities have failed to complete a review of our pay and conditions that was originally supposed to be completed in April 2002. There was a two-year extension, and it still isn’t finished!’
The ballot will begin soon and action could take place in mid-February. There will be three days of action, including strikes, during the balloting period.
Angela Howie, an Edinburgh nursery nurse, told Socialist Worker, ‘None of us want to be on the picket line. But we have been waiting 15 years for a proper re-evaluation of our job, and I am fed up with living on poverty pay. We’re mostly women workers who some councils think they can push around. They had better start recognising that we are very angry women and don’t take kindly to being treated with contempt.
‘I am very glad that Unison’s leadership have taken this decision. At the nursery nurses’ rally before Christmas it was obvious that people wanted the dispute to be stepped up. The speaker from Tower Hamlets in east London, where they went all out and won, got a great reception. There are branch meetings taking place across Scotland, and I hope there will be a really big campaign to win the vote now.
‘I hope other trade unions will also get behind us.’
Parents have hit out at Labour-run Chorley Borough Council’s decision to cut funding for a nursery – a move that could lead to its closure.
Happy Days nursery is set to close on 31 March. Gaynor Harper, who has a 15 month old son at the nursery, says, ‘There are more than 70 children who use the nursery and each of them, including my son, will have to be moved elsewhere-something which is bound to upset them and will make a lot of hard work for parents.’
Parents and staff in Ealing, west London, have vowed to keep their nursery centre open despite a decision to move the children to other centres.
Hanwell Nursery Centre is threatened with closure after Labour-run Ealing council decided to close it within a year. Parents and children demonstrated on the steps of Ealing Town Hall in the hope that they would be given a reprieve.
Janis Willmott says, ‘Ealing council wants to close Hanwell. All our families and children will need to trek to other parts of the borough just to get to a nursery centre.’
Melanie Higgins sent all three of her children to Hanwell. She says, ‘I will carry on fighting to try and save the centre.’
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