|Durham teaching assistants – who have just one week left to vote for strike action in the long-running dispute over cuts to their pay – this evening hold a major rally in the city.
Durham County Council is proposing to move teaching assistants to term-time pay, and extend the working week without paying for any extra hours worked.
UNISON is urging the teaching assistants to vote for strike action against a backdrop of intimidation by the council, which has threatened to sack and re-employ them on a worse deal than that given to other employees.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, who has given a personal commitment to support the teaching assistants, will address the rally at the Durham Miners’ Hall in Redhills that starts at 6pm.
UNISON represents the majority of teaching assistants in Durham and is pushing for a better deal following council proposals to cut pay by as much as 23% and lengthen the working week.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “No-one willingly takes strike action and Durham teaching assistants are no exception. Losing a day’s pay is a difficult decision at any time, but support staff know their union is behind them and intends to support them all the way.
“The strong arm tactics of the council and its attempt to bully UNISON teaching assistants into submission, while taking thousands of pounds off each and every one of them, has left us with little alternative but to ballot for strike action.”
UNISON northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “Even at this late stage there’s still time for the council to think again and reverse its decision to slash the pay of this essential group of employees by almost a quarter.
“No-one wants to stop children attending school or put parents out, but the council has made a bad decision to target this group of dedicated low-paid workers and leaves us with no alternative.
“Schools need teaching assistants to help teachers teach and deal with the day to day issues that come with running a school. Parents and head teachers appreciate the work school support staff do, it’s a pity Durham councillors can’t do the same.”