Durham classroom staff to walk out next month

Teaching assistants protest outside Durham's County Hall.
Teaching assistants protest outside Durham's County Hall.

Teaching assistants across County Durham will walk out in a long-running dispute over changes to their pay and condtions next month.

Classroom staff will take strike action on November 8 and 9, their union UNISON announced today.

Teaching assistants voted to strike earlier this month in a ballot over Durham County Council plans to move them to term-time pay, a step the union says could see school support staff lose up to 23% of their wages.

The proposals, which would see 2,700 members of staff dismissed and re-engaged on new contracts, sparked a major protest campaign.

Durham County Council says the changes will bring staff into line with the majority of employees in similar roles at other local authorities.

The plans, approved in May, initially included one year’s compensation for loss of earnings but the council came back to the table earlier this month with an improved compensation offer in a bid to end the dispute.

The vote on whether to move to industrial action was put to the workforce – who are mostly women - earlier this month. Ninety-three percent of UNISON members who responded voted for strike action.

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."

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 added: "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."