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revitaliseUNISON Briefing

Nursery Nurses Industrial Action
What's it all about?

Nursery Nurses are the largest single group of qualified Child Care professionals delivering the highest quality early years education and childcare within Nursery schools, classes, day nurseries and all early years' establishments.

They plan, assess, evaluate, observe, record and monitor every aspect of each individual child's learning, ensuring that they access a broad, varied, stimulating, thought provoking, and fun pre-five curriculum. This is demanded by documents and policies such as local Starting Points, Scottish National Curriculum guidelines and National Care Standards.

For this role their salary does not reflect their skills and expertise.

a) the job of a nursery nurse has not been reviwed for nearly 15 years (since 1998)

b) an average nursery nurse earns around £13,000 a year (from around £10,000 to £13,800)

c) the job of a nursery nurse has gained significant increased responsibilities since 1998 (see above)

UNISON's Scottish Local Government Service Group established a Nursery Nurses Working Group to look at the Pay and Grading of nursery nurses in Scotland in 1999. The Working Group spent considerable time in extensive consultation with branches and nursery nurses employed in Education and Social Work in Scottish councils.

Claim and Counter

They produced a Pay and Grading Claim in September 2001 and formally lodged with the Employers at the Scottish Joint Council Annual Meeting in October 2001. The Employers rejected the Pay and Grading Claim as not competent under the terms of the Single Status Agreement in Scotland (The Red Book).

They told us it would need to be discussed at local (individual Council) level during the 'job-evaluation' exercise The Trade Union Side noted the Employers' response, discussed it and agreed to lodge an identical claim individually with the 32 councils in Scotland in early 2002. UNISON branches did so in the week beginning February 4th 2002.

Over the course of the next 8 months, discussions took place between the Joint Secretaries of the Scottish Joint Council and individual councils and UNISON branches, as to how these individual claims might be dealt with. This resulted in an agreement in October 2002 that the Scottish Joint Council would set up a Joint Nursery Nurses Working Group to look in detail at the Trade Union Side Claim.

The Working Group first met in October 2002 and again in December of that year. At both these meetings the Employers indicated that they were collating information and views from the constituent authorities on the claim but were not yet in a position to respond, this a year after the Claim was lodged with the Council.

In January 2003, the Working Group met and the Employers produced their initial response which in no way addressed the claim and in fact threatened nursery nurses with term-time status. After this meeting UNISON members began the process which culminated in the industrial action ballot.

The UNISON ballot process was interrupted by a legal challenge from a Scottish local authority, perhaps indicating the level of anxiety the Employers had about the dispute. In this context it should also be noted that a number of branches have had approaches from their councils seeking to discuss the claim and to reach agreement locally.

When the UNISON ballot process began this was reported to the Employers. The Employers' Secretary offered a meeting at extremely short notice on 25 April 2003 at which UNISON and TGWU were in attendance. The Employers presented a set of proposals around guidelines for a job description to be recommended to local authorities. These were rejected by both UNISON and the Joint Trade Union side as they did not address the main issue of a Scottish regrading, and were too little, too late.

The ballot took place between 25 Apr and 9 May. 4,500 papers were issued and a 64% return was received. Two questions were asked in the ballot, asking nursery nurses if they were prepared to take a) strike action and/or b) action short of a strike. The result was a 87% vote in favour of strike action and a 92% vote in favour of action short of a strike. Both actions started on 20 May.

There will be rallies across Scotland organised by local branches. Further action will affect different areas at different times and will be notified later.

Action Starts

The council's affected by the first wave of strikes are: 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 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. The 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.

The Officers of the Local Government Committee and the UNISON Side remain available to discuss with the Employers a way forward but to date there has been no approach from the Employer in the face of the industrial action.

Support the Nursery Nurses!

Nursery Nurses, are a hard working, dedicated, conscientious, committed group of professionals involved in the education of children aged 0-5 years, who are entrusted to them by their parents/carers. They are not directed by teachers but work in partnership with them, as well as parents, support for learning assistants and visiting support specialists such as Special Educational Needs Nursery Nurses, Teachers, Speech therapists, Physiotherapists etc.

All have a role in creating an interesting, caring supportive environment where children can, at their own pace, develop and learn using a wide and varied range of skills and strategies. This gives them the best possible start in their education and engages them in life long learning.

UNISON's Scottish Nursery Nurse Working Party submitted a fair and equitable pay and regrading claim in September 2001. Nationally, Employers have continually refused to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Nursery Nurses. This is totally unacceptable and is the reason Scottish Nursery Nurses were balloted.

The high majority YES vote is an indication of the strength of feeling. Nursery nurses are dedicated professionals, passionate about their careers, but fully intend to pursue their regrading claim until they gain recognition for their professional status and secure a fair salary.

The demands and stresses that are part of nursery life are compensated for by the achievements, however big or small, of all children, culminating in the day they leave nursery to embark on their school life, confident, inquisitive, interested, eager young citizens.

Please support the nursery nurses' claim.

Contact Joe Di Paola, Scottish Organiser - Local Government on 0845 355 0845, or e-mail on j.dipaola@unison.co.uk For ways in which you can help UNISON's campaign.