We publish a text by the Women’s Strike Assembly on the childcare workers’ strikes in UK, that have been going on for weeks now. Childcare workers’ strikes are essential, as essential is their work! Let’s join forces together for the essential strike towards March 8th (read EAST manifesto here https://www.transnational-strike.info/2021/01/25/essential-strike-manifesto-for-the-8th-of-march/ and join our public assembly towards 8M: https://www.facebook.com/events/869569070534543).
In the UK, 80% of nurseries are now run by private companies, and the private sector is controlled by multinational corporations, that run around 50-60% of the market. These big super-chain companies are some of the only early years providers that are making a profit out of childcare. Public funding for early years is no where near enough to provide quality care. Because of decades of underfunding, child-care in UK is one of the most expensive in Europe for parents, and at the same time for the workers it’s a minimum wage job. In the UK, right now, Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing, but the government continues to keep nurseries open, even as their own evidence shows them to be large transmission sites, with huge risks for the childcare workers and families.
Childcare work is considered essential and yet childcare remains open to the whole community, and is devalued and invisible in so many ways. Too many childcare workers are getting infected by Covid-19. This situation only benefits middle-class parents, who are able to pay the huge fees for the private nurseries, and obviously it benefits the companies continuing to make profit on the shoulders of childcare workers’ life. Some even consider it a feminist victory to keep nurseries open, forgetting all those women everyday risking their life on a minimum wage job.
The UK has restrictive and reactionary industrial relations laws that make striking increasingly difficult. As a result of Covid-19, workers now have access to health and safety law, in particular many childcare workers are using Section 44 of the Health and Safety Act to refuse unsafe work and say that they are not willing to sacrifice their safety on the altar of private childcare super-chains’ profits. Using Section 44, they have organized collective walkouts in settings across the UK, following the example of teachers who were able collectively pressured government to close all primary schools in early Jan. @United voices of the world has been supporting this fight, with more and more childcare workers joining the union each day, and they are not as invisible in the public debate as they used to be. Thanks to their everyday fight, their voices are now heard.
But their fight is not over: the number of children per childcare worker urgently needs to be reduced, they should be equipped with the right protective equipment, they should be vaccinated, they should have paid sick leave. The childcare workers strikes are essential and they are going on! Workers in the elder care sector also took action last week with their first strike. Workers at Sage Nursing home in London are getting ready for a second strike, which will take place from the 4th to the 8th of February.