Durham teaching assistants back strike action

Durham County Council

93 per cent* of Durham’s teaching assistants who are members of the union UNISON, have voted for strike action to take place over cuts to pay.

The union held a ballot over Durham County Council plans to move teaching assistants to term time pay. This could see support staff loose up to 23 per cent of their wages.

The vote was put forward to the largely female work force on October 6, with the ballot closing on October 19.

The ballot was carried out with a backdrop of imitation by the council which has threatened to sack and re-employ teaching assistants who are UNISON members on a worse deal than that given to other employees, says the union.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This huge vote has taken place against a backdrop of bullying by councillors, head teachers and church leaders, all of whom should have known better.

“These are low-paid women workers who deserve much better from their employer – a Labour council.

“Even at this late stage there’s still time for councillors to think again and agree to reverse their decision to slash the pay of these workers by nearly a quarter.”

Durham County Council has been informed, and the union says it will now talk to its members to find out what kind of action to take.

Speaking to Durham County Council’s Head of Education, Caroline O’Neill, said: “We are obviously very disappointed that following lengthy discussions with trade unions and ACAS, two consultations, and extensive efforts to mitigate the impact of paying our valued staff only for the hours they actually work, Unison members have taken this decision.

“Throughout this process we have been really clear that this is not a situation we would want to be in, but one that – like all but one other council in the North East and many nationally – we have a legal and moral duty to deal with, due to the huge potential for extremely costly equal pay claims by other staff, which could put council services and jobs at risk.

“Providing a first class education for all of the county’s children remains our priority and we will of course now work with headteachers to ensure that any disruption to their education is kept to a minimum.”

*The percentage was taken from the people who choose to vote.

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