Teaching assistants vote to strike

Teaching assistants protest outside the County Hall Durham.
Teaching assistants protest outside the County Hall Durham.
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Teaching assistants in Durham have voted overwhelmingly to strike over cuts.

Durham teaching assistant members of the Assocation of Teachers and Lecturers, ATL, are in a long running battle with Durham County Council over planned cuts to their pay.

Durham TAs will become some of the lowest paid

Richard Marshall

Classroom staff are angry at changes to their terms and conditions, which unions say could see some losing as much as £400-a-month from their wages.

The proposals, which would see 2,700 members of staff dismissed and re-engaged on new contracts under which they would be paid for term time only, sparked a major protest campaign.

Durham County Council says the changes will bring staff into line with the majority of people in similar roles at other local authorities.

The plans, approved in May, initially included one year’s compensation for loss of earnings but the county council came back to the table earlier this month with an improved compensation offer in a bid to end the dispute.

However this was rejected and in a strike ballot of ATL’s 122 teaching assistants working in Durham, 84% voted to strike on a 61% turnout.

Richard Marshall, the union’s organiser for Durham, said: “Teaching assistants are not asking for more pay, just to keep being paid the same amount for their work.

“Durham TAs will become some of the lowest paid TAs in the North East, earning up to £5,000 less than colleagues in neighbouring authorities.

“ATL is working with Unison to co-ordinate industrial action in the coming weeks, and will seek to do so with as little disruption to children’s education as possible.”

Trish Fay, a teaching assistant in Durham, said: “We are overworked and very much undervalued. Sadly striking is the only option left now to persuade Durham County Council to change its mind as I cannot afford to do the same stressful job, working the same 32.5 hours with £320 a month less in my salary.”

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, said: “We urge Durham County Council to get around the table and negotiate a fair deal for its teaching assistants. It is not too late to do so. No employer should expect its employees to accept working more for less pay.

“If Durham County Council pushes ahead with these pay cuts many teaching assistants will no longer be able to afford to work in schools and children will lose out. When schools are struggling to find teachers, it seems crazy to lose teaching assistants as well because of ill-thought through and deeply unfair changes.”