Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/309/12618

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 July 2003

Kirklees Nursery nurses: United Action Gave Us Confidence

KIRKLEES NURSERY nurses recently won a regrading battle through strike action. Like their fellow workmates in Tower Hamlets, this victory was only achieved by a hard-hitting and united combination of strikes, in Kirklees' case of nine-day duration.

The socialist exclusively interviewed two of the Unison stewards who led the strike, SUE SUNTER and JILL HINCHLIFFE.


This dispute took three years to settle, why do you think the council was so long in meeting your pay claim?

"Because we are a minority female workforce in a caring role. They thought we wouldn't take action, that the guilt factor would stop us taking it any further.

They tried to turn the public against us by saying we were denying children an education. We conducted ourselves properly and were patient. We always listened to them, we were disciplined but we kept on waiting."

The dispute was in two stages, what were they and how did it progress?

"The first stage was to get them to reach a local deal with us. We're governed by national pay scales, but they have never been updated. They initially refused to talk with us.

So we raised our local profile. We collected signatures, went to the press, made a lot of phone calls to councillors. We got the public on our side who have been very supportive.

We got all the Nursery Nurses on side and united. Communication was very difficult, being spread over 90 schools.

The council had stopped the termly meetings with the staff group. So we spread the word through UNISON and set up a Working Party to motivate and lead the dispute. We then got everyone on board.

It took a long time for us to feel we could trust the union. We'd been involved before in trying to get a better deal and got nowhere.

This time we got Nursery Nurses together and gave regular feedback. One of the big motivators was that the council had already regraded other support staff and we had been left behind.

It was hard to keep going. Sometimes it felt like we took one step forward and three back. But we kept together and reminded ourselves where we were going. The working party acted as a bridge between the union and all the members."

In the end, they agreed to local talks, but things were still stalled, why was that?

"They tried to impose term-time contracts. That had to be stopped. We lobbied the council, altogether about four times.

"The Director of Education tried to pull Nursery Nurses away from the union by organising two meetings with us but without the union.

He soon understood the strength of feeling though. At the second meeting we invited the union along, and he was clearly frightened of the mood.

We invited the deputy leader of the council to one of our meetings and he got the message as well. We worked to rule because of their threats and delays.

In the end they agreed to keep our 52-week contracts. We then set about writing our own job descriptions for consideration by the council."

They finally made an offer in October last year, what happened?

"It was totally unacceptable. After all the work we'd done, they refused to use the local grading system and offered us less than 20p per hour.

"The mood was very angry and frustrated. They were still not listening. We rejected the offer and told the union to get shifting on strike action.

They made a second offer which took us up by only 38p an hour. They forgot we hadn't had a pay rise for 10 years and in that time the job had changed so much.

With all that extra responsibility, it felt like a smack in the face. Some Nursery Nurses have even had to take two jobs to make ends meet."

So there was a ballot for strike action, how did that go?

"80% voted for strike action. It gave us renewed strength at our mass meeting. The mood became determined, enough was enough.

"Our strength came though and our anger was directed at the right people, the council. We had massive support from parents, support staff and even head teachers."

How did the strike go?

"At first we were a bit frightened. But we came together and felt a great sense of achievement. There was a lot of support on picket lines.

"On the first day's strike, we came together at a rally and felt we could do anything. Our self-belief came though and it gave us a sense of power.

We moved to a three-day strike, which was really uplifting. We organised daily activities and had a lot of publicity and interest.

We had a brilliant day when 100 of us lobbied the full council. We felt we had support from a lot of councillors and even from members of the ruling party.

The deputy leader of the council was totally embarrassed in the full meeting after we'd addressed them. It represented a real turning point for the strike. He disappeared from public view after that."

What about your five day strike?

"Striking is hard work and it took powerful words to get everyone motivated. We got organised and planned ahead.

"We broke down into local groups and planned out daily picketing. We also visited other workplaces to spread the word around the whole area.

We had a march through town which was inspirational. Although a few had slipped back into work, confidence grew as the week went on. The solid core at the centre of the strike kept us going, we became impermeable.

We kept everyone informed and stayed in touch. We continued lobbying all the political parties and made a big impact. The council were forced back to the talks."

What about the new offer?

"We've kept our 52-week contracts and that is very important for us. We would like to have achieved more, but it has been a positive result.

"We wouldn't have moved them any further without all-out strike action. We weren't sure that everyone would have gone for that.

We'd had great support from parents but we had also seen the hurt it did to the children. We have pushed the council further than they wanted to go by sticking together and saying no.

We stood up for ourselves. They said they didn't have the money and we said that was unacceptable. We were empowering our members and they got scared."

What have you learned from the dispute?

"This was a longer road than we thought. People got stronger as went on. We became a lot more confident.

Schools will have to be more careful and treat us more fairly. I have learnt to speak out for myself. I used to stay quiet but I am no longer JUST a Nursery Nurse.

We will hold regular Nursery Nurse meetings to keep everyone together and to get advice. The government wants education on the cheap and we will have to be vigilant.

We want to be an inspiration to others and help them get organised. We wish all other Nursery Nurses involved in strike action good luck and wish to thank all the other branches and Unison members for their support. Striking is hard but it's eventually worth it

We also want to thank the union for all its support; we wouldn't have set out on our journey otherwise.

Mike and Julie (Unison Education Stewards and Socialist Party members) have been a great help and their continued support was important. Our victory would not have been possible otherwise."

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 19 July 2003:

Tony Blair: Time To Go!

Devon Bus Workers Fight Low Pay

Right Wing Booed Out Of PCS Leadership

Say No To Poverty Wages

Iraq Watch:

Whipps Cross hospital workers: "Where we fight, we win"

Asylum Seekers Fear Repression

Kirklees Nursery nurses: United Action Gave Us Confidence

Fight For Trade Union Rights In Colombia


Socialist Party features

Low Pay - No Way!

Reclaiming Feminism?

Weapons of mass destruction: A Web Of Lies From Day One

Gay Rights Aren't Only For Bishops

Genetic engineering: Science And Big Business


International socialist news and analysis

Kazakhstan: Foundry workers fight for nationalisation of factory

Africa in Crisis: Development reversed by Capitalism

"Stop The Reform Or We Will Stop The Country"


 

Home   |   The Socialist 19 July 2003   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Kirklees:

trianglePlans to launch no-cuts campaign at Kirklees College

triangleKirklees bin workers ballot for strike over schedule and bullying

triangleCouncil proposes worst cuts in living memory

triangleGetting under Labour's skin in Southwark

triangleNarrow vote against action in Kirklees Unison

US:

triangleVictory! Trump's UK visit cancelled by fear of protests

triangleMovement challenges Iranian regime

triangleThem & Us

triangleWidening wealth gap, increase in poverty...make the fat cats pay

Nurses:

triangleNHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangleNasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangleStrike to save our NHS!

Nursery:

triangleWomen: fight for equality, fight for socialism

triangleStop Leeds college nursery closures

Strike:

triangleWorkplace news in brief

Council:

triangleCarlisle debate: The way forward - Socialism or Social Democracy?

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

22/1/18

Sudan

Sudan: Free Mohamed Satti

22/1/18

London

Women rally defiantly

22/1/18

Obituary

Red Mary - a Force of Nature

17/1/18

Women

Socialist Party women's meeting brings together members to share experiences

17/1/18

Newham

Packed Newham meeting against academies

17/1/18

Liverpool

Lobby pushes Liverpool council to oppose privatisation

17/1/18

Barking

Heating scandal on east London estate

17/1/18

Policing

Undercover policing legal challenge

17/1/18

Woolwich

No to the Woolwich monster block

17/1/18

Union

Workplace news in brief

17/1/18

Union

PCS union 2018 elections - nominate the left slate for a continued fighting leadership

17/1/18

Hackney

Hackney school cleaners strike

17/1/18

RMT

RMT strikes against driver-only operation continue

17/1/18

Yorkshire

Ferrybridge: Workers down tools over unpaid wages

17/1/18

Cuts

We must fight all council cuts!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle22 Jan Women rally defiantly

triangle22 Jan Red Mary - a Force of Nature

triangle17 Jan Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangle17 Jan NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangle17 Jan We must fight all council cuts!

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

More ...

triangle23 Jan Bristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangle23 Jan Cardiff West Socialist Party: How the Poll Tax was beaten

triangle24 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: The Carillion scandal

triangle24 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Carillion collapse - Watershed moment for public services

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2