UNISON suspends today’s teaching assistants’ strike action

Strike action involving teaching assistants that was due to affect schools across County Durham today (Thursday) has been called off so talks aimed at solving the dispute can take place, says UNISON.

The school support staff employed by Durham County Council had been about to take their fifth day of action today, and a further three days next week. A decision will be taken about the strikes planned for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday following talks with the council.

After the announcement that the council would be suspending its plans to dismiss and re-employ the teaching assistants on new contracts from January, UNISON decided to call off today’s strike.

UNISON Northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “Disputes are only ever solved through negotiation. At last there can be proper talks, without the threat of huge pay cuts hanging over teaching assistants’ heads.

“Everyone is hoping that councillors now act in good faith, abandon their pay cut plans once and for all, and show how much they value their brilliant teaching assistants.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is an important step in the fight to protect Durham teaching assistants from pay cuts that would mean financial hardship for families who are already struggling. But there’s still plenty of work to do in the weeks ahead to make sure school support staff don’t lose out.

“Thankfully the county council has been listening and – realising it was up against the incredible passion and dedication of its teaching assistants and the support of an entire community – has decided upon a different approach. Councillors now have a real opportunity to show they value the work of these vital education staff, and to pay them what they deserve.”