Teaching assistants in Durham will take strike action on 8 and 9 November in the long-running dispute over cuts to their pay, their union UNISON has announced today (Monday).
This follows a ballot over Durham County Council plans to move teaching assistants to term-time pay. This could see school support staff lose up to 23% of their wages.
The vote on whether to move to industrial action was put to the workforce – who are mostly women – on Thursday 6 October. Ninety-three percent of UNISON members who responded voted for strike action.
The ballot was carried out against a backdrop of intimidation by the council which has threatened to sack and re-employ teaching assistants who are UNISON members on a worse deal than those given to other employees, says the union.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis 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.”
UNISON northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “Nobody wants to see schools closed and teaching assistants on picket lines, but until Durham Council drops its plan to slash their salaries, that’s inevitable. It’s unacceptable that staff who look after children in County Durham are being treated this way – the council needs to think again.”
UNISON Durham County branch secretary Neville Hancock said: “Teaching assistants are a vital part of our schools and should be treated accordingly. It’s time for the council to change its plan and abandon these horrendous pay cuts.”
– A lobby will take place at Durham County Hall at 9am on Wednesday 9 November, then Dave Prentis will speak at a rally at the Miners Association, Redhills, at noon.
– UNISON balloted a total of 1,755 teaching assistants. For legal reasons, the union had to conduct two separate ballots – one for employees in faith schools and another for those directly employed by the council.
– Ninety-three per cent of county council employees who voted backed strike action. The figure was the same for those working in faith schools.
– Councillors voted in May to dismiss the classroom assistants and re-employ them on new term-time contracts.