Teaching assistants stage latest protest in fight against pay cuts

Teaching assistants protest outside the County Hall Durham.
Unison organiser Helen Metcalf

Teaching assistants protest outside the County Hall Durham. Unison organiser Helen Metcalf

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Hundreds of teaching assistants took to the streets to protest against pay cuts.

The teaching assistants are locked in a bitter battle with Durham County Council over changes to their terms and conditions, which could see some losing as much as £400-a-month from their wages.

We are still urging the council to reconsider

Helen Metcalf

Today more than 500 people took part in the latest mass protest outside County Hall which lasted for more than three hours.

They also handed over a petition against the changes containing thousands of signatures, including those of Dennis Skinner MP and Labour Leader, Jeremyb Corbyn MP.

In May, despite huge opposition, the council agreed the proposed changes to the 2,700 members of staff, which would see them paid for term time only, instead of the 52-week current contracts.

For many of the school workers this could mean a reduction in their annual income of almost a quarter of their wages.

Helen Metcalf, a regional spokeswoman for Unison, the union many teaching assistants are in, said the members will continue to fight the plans.

She said: “There was a fantastic turnout, about 500 people over the three hours.

“It is all about keeping the situation in the public eye. We are still urging the council to reconsider and address the issue again. We are determined to fight this, but we are still keen to speak to the council to try and find other options to reach a resolution.”

However, even though it is a last resort, there is a mandate to strike if necessary.

Helen said there has always been a goodwill with teaching assistants and most of them do lots of extra hours, such as running after school and holiday clubs, and a lot go into schools during holiday time to prepare for the coming term.

She said: “All this goodwill will be lost.”

Durham County Council has said the amendments will make it fair across the workforce.

Councillor Jane Brown, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “These proposals are aimed at ensuring fairness and parity across our workforce.

“They are about ensuring that teaching assistants, like all other council employees, are paid only for the hours they actually work.

“The current contract arrangements for teaching assistants represent a significant equal pay claim risk to the council and we have an obligation to address this in order to protect public finances.”