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Nursery Nurses Campaign 2003/4

10th Anniversary of Nursery Nurse Dispute 2003-2004

3 May 2014:

Nursery Nurse StrikeOn 31 May it will be 10 years since nursery nurses in Edinburgh returned to work after a year-long dispute culminating in 11 weeks of all out strike – the longest strike in Scotland since the miners’ strike.

It may not be surprising for a largely women dominated profession that nursery nurse pay had not been reviewed for 15 years, and they had been waiting 18 months for a response on their claim.

They had mounted demonstrations, submitted a 20,000 signature petition to the Scottish Parliament and lobbied parents, councillors and MSPs. With no response their patience ran out and they balloted for action. The first strike in Edinburgh was on 21 May 2003.

They started with strikes co-ordinated in different areas across Scotland in a rolling programme to seek a national settlement that would address the pitifully low pay and pitifully low value councils afforded these workers.

But more than that, it was also about dedication to the children they served and a real commitment to the future of early years care and education delivered by properly trained and supported professionals.

In 2004, the action culminated in 11 weeks of all out strike with some of the most imaginative events ever seen in a dispute to keep the fight in the public eye.

Strikers from Fife and the Lothians marched to cross borders and meet in the middle of the Forth Road Bridge to show the absurdity of CoSLA’s insistence on local deals instead of a national settlement.

On the 90th anniversary of Ethel Moorhead’s force feeding in Calton jail, nursery nurses dressed as suffragettes and paper-chained themselves to the First Minister’s residence.

They mounted a rally to both of 'Edinburgh's Disgraces' by lobbying the Council to expose the local offer as a 'disgrace' then marched to 'Edinburgh's Disgrace' monument on Calton Hill to release hundreds of balloons with meticulous military precision and signalled by Barbara Foubister’s famous whistle.

And the one I love most. When CoSLA refused to come to the table for national negotiations, thousands of nursery nurses and supporters marched through Edinburgh carrying the table to CoSLA and setting it up outside the organisation’s front door.

And when the media attacked them, the nursery nurses turned up at the door of the Evening News and demanded the journalists account for themselves! We should maybe do more of that!

But unfortunately, branches started to settle locally. Glasgow and Edinburgh held out but eventually the central strike committee had to recognise the reality and gave the go ahead for local settlements.

In Edinburgh, after 12 hours at ACAS, we got a deal that didn’t deliver all we wanted but it did deliver rises of up to 10 salary points – almost inconceivable these days – thousands in lump sum payments and a career structure.

Nationally it also delivered a Scottish Government review of early years.
It was a fantastic dispute, run with dignity in the face of politically motivated attacks by some parents in Edinburgh and run with some real imagination. Most of all, the strikers got fully involved in, and made sure they controlled, their own dispute.

The action changed the face of early years work and the importance of the role of nursery nurses across Scotland.

See the links below and on the right for the archive of the dispute.



Nursery Nurses are the largest single professional group delivering education to Scotland's children - we want their pay to reflect the importance of the job they do.

'Can't praise nursery nurses highly enough', branch secretary

28 May 2004: "Nursery nurses have been an example to every other trade unionist throughout this dispute with their good nature, solid organisation and real commitment to the future of early years care and education.

They have achieved a 10 point pay rise, a substantial lump sum and one in three can go on to higher grades. That is the best I have seen achieved by any group in the last 20 years.

It is a disgrace that the council could not recognise that just one more pay point would have sent people back with confidence in their council. But now the bad taste will stay with nursery nurses for a long time.

In addition to the comments I have made in the press release, I would like to record my thanks for the dignity and support shown by the nursery nurses. Sometimes that has felt wonderful and sometimes it has felt worrying as we failed to achieve for them what we would have wanted.

That dignity and unity shone through today. I was extremely moved by the gift the nursery nurse meeting gave me and the expressions of goodwill inside and outside the meeting. Just one more example of how this group of workers, far from thinking of themselves, have gone through this dispute thinking of others - not least the children they serve. There are not many in this whole saga that can say that.

We are making arrangements to meet again to finalise outstanding issues and to have a social and some fun at last.

To all nursery nurses who stuck so solidly together and who worked so hard with such dignity - you have done so much for the future of your service and thanks from all the branch officers, stewards and staff."

John Stevenson
Branch Secretary.

Edinburgh Action

There will be a rolling programme of strikes from 20 May. Edinburgh will be on strike on Wed 21 and Thur 22 May

Tuesday 20 May and Wednesday 21 May - East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East and West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, Shetland and Orkney.

On Wednesday 21 May they will be joined by colleagues in Edinburgh, East-, Mid- and West Lothian, Borders, Fife, Stirling, Falkirk, Perth & Kinross and Dundee. These branches will also be on strike on Thursday 22 May.

Branches also striking on Wednesday 21 May alone will be Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll & Bute, Clackmannanshire, Highland, South Lanarkshire, Moray and the Western Isles.

Extra duties that will be boycotted include observation, recording assessment and evaluation processes, planning and development tasks, student training, all work outwith normal working hours, and all clerical, janitorial and cleaning tasks.


Huge support for Edinburgh's nursery nurses on first strike day

Parents and other Council colleagues joined hundreds of nursery nurses in a demonstration at Edinburgh's City Chambers today 21 May. Support also came from nursery nurses from Glasgow and Fife.

Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Local Government Organiser, told the demonstration"Despite press calls from CoSLA for us to get back round the table," He said "We have had no letters, phone calls or any other contact offering talks. We condemn such megaphone negotiations and suggest that if they seriously want to resolve this issue, rather than crying crocodile tears over disruption they take action to settle the dispute."

Barbara Foubister, Branch Chair and a nursery nurse herself thanked members for the turnout and outlined plans for the dispute. "We thank everyone who has turned out and it shows just how united nursery nurses are in fighting for a long overdue settlement", she said.

Branch Secretary John Stevenson recalled that he and Barbara had seen several attempts to get 'Justice for the Nursery Nurse' over the last 15 years. "The public are behind you", he told the members, "especially when they here how low your pay is - but also because you have worked closely with parents".

Elizabeth Hunter, a Fife nursery nurse, was warmly welcomed. "We've accepted things for too long but we're not accepting it now - we want it sorted", she said to loud applause.

Parents joined nursery nurses on picket lines across the city. The action continues tomorrow before a return to work on Friday - then a further series of strikes will be announced.


Background to the claim

"The ballot result fully shows the strength of feeling amongst nursery nurses." Said Agnes Petkevicius, Nursery Nurse and Edinburgh UNISON Service Conditions Officer.

"Our pay has not been reviewed for 15 years, and our claim was submitted over 18 months ago. We have had a number of demonstrations of public support, submitted a 20,000 signature petition to the Scottish Parliament and lobbied parents, councillors and MSP's. After the latest employers rejection nursery nurses feel they have no choice but to take industrial action, to highlight our determination to achieve fair pay and address inequalities in our treatment"

Nursery Nurses will be taking a mixture of strike action and a boycott of duties added to the job over the years that have not been recognised. The campaign will start on 20 May with a rolling programme of action. This programme will incorporate both local and Scotland-wide action co-ordinated over a six week period by the union. The action will mean the closure of Scotland's nurseries and nursery schools on strike days, and disruption of the overall nursery service.

Joe Di Paola, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Local Government, says that parents have been very supportive, and recognise the responsibilities for this lie with employers. "Our members have been keeping parents informed of this campaign the whole time it has been going. They have been the mainstay of our public support, petition-signing etc. They know that we raised the issue with CoSLA, with individual local authorities and with the Scottish Executive. We also took part in a Scottish-wide working party at the end of which the employers simply reiterated their original mantra of 18 months previously."

Agnes outlined the main issues:-

  • The claim covers all nursery nurses in local authorities
  • the claim has been rejected by CoSLA, of which the City of Edinburgh Council is a member.
  • along with rejecting the claim, the employers want to introduce a new job title and ne job description - and if that is not enough, they have recommended making some nursery nurses part time sessional employees.

Nursery Nurses have been campaigning for a review of their jobs for two years and say that the low pay and status of nursery nurses is jeopardising the Government's nursery education plans.

Scottish Local Authorities first claimed that grading of nursery nurses was at individual council's discretion, then agreed a Scottish-wide working party when UNISON put claims in to every Scottish council.

But the report of the working party sidesteps the crucial issue of nursery nurses pay and grading.

UNISON is looking for a review of the status, career structure and pay of nursery nurses across Scotland.





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Website Design
Website designed and maintained by John Stevenson (Communications Officer)
UNISON City of Edinburgh Local Government & Related Sectors Branch 1998-2008.
All original graphics copyright but may be used if credited in source code.



See also...

UNISON Scotland Nursery Nurse Campaign Pages

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