More teaching assistants are gearing up for strike action in Durham next week.
Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, ATL, union have announced they will join their Unison colleagues in a two day walkout.
Durham teaching assistants who are members of both unions, will go on strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 8 and 9, over Durham County Council’s plans to cut their pay by up to 23%.
Both unions say care will be taken to make sure the strike causes as little disruption to children’s education as possible.
The strike is over Durham County Council moving teaching assistants to term-time pay, which campaigners say could see them lose up to 23% of their wages.
This would make TAs in Durham some of the lowest paid in the North East, level 3 TAs in Stockton and Newcastle currently earn £3,363 to £4,501 more a year, and the differential will grow if these cuts go through.
Emma Parker, ATL’s district secretary in Durham, said: “It’s still not too late for Durham County Council to get around the table and negotiate a fair deal for its teaching assistants.
“What the Labour-run Durham Council is trying to do is totally unfair – to cut the pay of low-paid workers. There are fairer solutions, Durham Council could have decided to pay its TAs the going rate for support staff in the North East.
“None of our TAs want to go on strike, and they certainly don’t want to disrupt children’s education, but the council has left them with little option.
“If the council doesn’t rethink its deeply flawed plans it will lose thousands of dedicated, hard-working teaching assistants, with some leaving to work in higher-paying neighbouring areas, and children in Durham will lose out.”
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: “No one should ever have to face a salary cut of almost a quarter. These staff have been treated appallingly. Teaching assistants will be showing just how strongly they feel about this next week and they will have their union and community standing beside them.”
Margaret Whellans, Durham County Council’s corporate director of children and young people’s services, said: “From the outset we have been clear that no-one wants to be in this position.
“We face a substantial risk of equal pay claims and we have no choice other than to follow all but one other council in the North East and many nationally which already pay teaching assistants for term time only.
“We greatly value our teaching assistants and that is why we have done everything possible to minimise the impact of these changes on them.
“The council is always willing to talk with unions and staff as it has throughout this process, however, the two year compensation offer agreed through ACAS is the council’s final offer.”