Teaching assistants in Durham have overwhelmingly rejected a new pay proposal from the county council, their union UNISON has announced today (Wednesday).
UNISON held a consultative ballot over council plans to move 2,700 classroom assistants onto term-time contracts, which could see them lose up to £6,000 a year.
Durham County Council’s proposals were put to the largely female workforce two weeks ago. Seventy-eight per cent of UNISON members who responded voted to reject the plans.
UNISON will now notify the council of its decision to move to a vote on strike action, and will begin sending ballot papers to the classroom support workers early next week.
UNISON northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “Teaching assistants are angry at the way the council has behaved, threatening to sack them if they don’t sign new contracts.
“These are dedicated and committed individuals who are already on low wages. Many can barely make ends meet as it is.
“Striking is a last resort but these low-paid employees feel they have no choice but to consider taking action. Teaching assistants make a real difference in the classroom — teachers couldn’t teach without them and parents value them. It’s a pity the county council appears not to recognise their worth too.
“UNISON is fully behind the teaching assistants, whatever course of action they choose to take.”
– UNISON balloted a total of 1,686 teaching assistants. Seventy-eight per cent voted to reject the County Council’s proposals and twenty-two per cent voted to accept.
– Councillors voted in May to dismiss the classroom assistants and re-employ them on new term-time contracts. This process will begin next month.