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Scottish nursery nurses
How Our Strike Changed Me
THOUSANDS OF nursery nurses in Scotland were recently involved in the biggest and longest indefinite strike for 20 years. The dispute has helped to give confidence to other workers struggling against low pay and job cuts but it also helped change the outlook of many who participated in that struggle.
JILL MCNAUGHTON from Dundee emerged as a leading activist during the nine weeks she and her colleagues were on strike. Jill has since joined the International Socialists, the Scottish section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI). This interview with Jill is from the current issue of International Socialist.
"LOOKING BACK to before our dispute started, it is incredible to realise the things that you felt you had no choice but to accept. Like many nursery nurses I was not active in the union and would not have thought of myself as political. Now I am much more confident about standing up for myself and trying to make a difference.
But that is an example of how the experience of the strike changed me and made me stronger. I was thrown into the deep end. Before I knew where I was, I was helping organise picket lines, standing with buckets collecting money in the streets and workplaces and speaking at meetings of hundreds of trade unionists, socialists and supporters at public meetings up and down the country.
If you'd asked me if I'd ever have been speaking on a platform with people like George Galloway I'd have laughed. The strike changed me forever.
There were a number of members of the Scottish Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers International in Dundee who were very active in giving us support and help when it was most needed.
I would speak to CWI members regularly during the dispute for help and support and encouraged other nursery nurses to do the same. I found them very approachable and they took the time to explain the idea of socialism and how it related to our strike for decent pay and recognition for the job that we do.
Previously I had thought of socialists as being a bit mad, fighting for a cause they had no chance of winning. But being involved in our fight and hearing how it was linked to a wider struggle for a better society changed my views.
We received welcome support from socialists from different organisations but the CWI members took time to explain the issues, did it in a nice way and weren't too pushy about insisting on joining them.
After the strike finished I attended a number of CWI meetings and discussed the lessons of the strike and socialist ideas and took time to consider before I joined.
I am convinced that it is important to fight for a socialist society that can end, once and for all. the misery of low pay and poverty. And I believe that the CWI have the policies and approach that can help achieve that aim."
- To subscribe to International Socialist, write to CWI, PO Box 6773, Dundee D1 1YL. 5 issues £3.50, 12 issues £6.50. Make cheques payable to International Socialist.
In The Socialist 4 September 2004:
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis