NURSERY NURSES in Kirklees, West Yorkshire have voted to escalate their strike action. Following the Easter holidays, a mass meeting decided overwhelmingly to strike for a week from 12 to 16 May. This will be the longest period that the 140 nursery nurses have been on strike. The decision was not taken lightly but these women saw that they had no alternative.
Mike Forster, Kirklees UNISON
So far, there have been four days of rolling strikes but the council appears to be digging in. There has been a war of words in the press but no further negotiations. The local elections in Kirklees saw the Liberal Democrats increase their number of seats but the council is still hung. That means we still have to deal with the deputy leader, Councillor Smithson, who is a Liberal Democrat. Something of a contradiction since he is neither liberal or democratic!
A group of nursery nurses lobbied the election count on the night of 1 May. They were cheered by the support they got from local Socialist Party candidate, Jean Goodison, herself a low-paid kitchen assistant and UNISON steward. Once inside the town hall, they chased politicians all round the building.
The police became nervous, since all election polling agents had been warned throughout the day to watch out for striking nursery nurses visiting polling stations! However, Councillor Smithson did his Houdini act all night and managed to avoid nursery nurses or refused to speak to them.
This is a strike to lift a female workforce out of poverty pay. The council sees it as a chance to take on public sector union UNISON. It is doing its best to demonise these workers, who are amazed that they have been branded as banner-waving militants.
The stakes therefore have to be lifted. A special meeting is being called for to call out other workers in support of the nursery nurses. The prospect of a one-day strike by all public-sector workers is now being posed to break the logjam. Because of employment laws, this is still some way off but it will send a clear message to the council.
Next week’s strike will once again be solid. The nursery nurses have come a long way since strike action was first discussed. They are now preparing to visit workplaces all over the borough to raise the idea of solidarity action. This has become a trial of strength. UNISON has to come out of it victorious. Please invite a nursery nurse to your area and keep the messages of support rolling in!