'Only looking after the weans'? The Scottish nursery nurses’ strike, 2004

Mooney, Gerry and McCafferty, Tricia (2005). 'Only looking after the weans'? The Scottish nursery nurses’ strike, 2004. Critical Social Policy, 25(2) pp. 223–239.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018305051327


During March and April 2004 5,000 local authority employed nursery nurses in Scotland were involved in a national all-out strike. A two and a half year dispute over pay was transformed into a struggle to maintain national bargaining in the face of employer attempts to impose local pay deals. Drawing on interviews with striking nursery nurses, this paper seeks to explore the factors that led to the largest all-out strike in Scotland since the Miners’ Strike in the mid 1980s. It is argued that the experiences of these nursery nurses highlight particular ways in which New Labour’s welfare reforms, and its approach to pay and conditions in the public sector, are impacting on some of the most poorly paid groups of public sector workers, and in doing so suggest that this dispute has a much wider resonance beyond Scotland and beyond the nursery nurses’ fight.

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