Socialist Worker

Durham teaching assistants defy Labour council’s ‘galling’ raid on pay

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2505

Durham County Council logo

Durham County Council logo


Labour-run Durham County Council voted last week to sack 2,700 teaching assistants (TAs) and rehire them on worse contracts with up to 23 percent lower pay.

The council intends to impose a new contract by January 2017 to ensure “fairness”, said councillor Jane Brown, the cabinet member for corporate services.

Teaching assistant Harold told Socialist Worker that workers were “outraged” by the attack. “Schools are getting to keep the money from this cut but are being told they can’t spend on teaching assistants. People are so angry—the atmosphere is just awful.

“They are driving through a huge pay cut to already low paid workers. Some households face up to a £5,000 pay cut from this. Everyone is worrying how they are going to pay rent or their mortgages—it’s absolutely terrifying.”

The council says the new contract will pay the TAs only during term time rather than 52 weeks of the year. It argues that people should only get paid for the time they work.

But Harold said the council’s case is “wholly inaccurate”.

Holidays

“A portion of our wages are held back from term time to pay us during the holidays. It’s our money. They also claim we only work 32 hours but I have a contract for 37 hours a week.”

Brown insists the council must “protect public finances” from unfair pay claims from other school workers who are only paid during term time.

Yet Harold said the council revealed to the workers’ Unison union that it had received “zero” unequal pay claims historically.

Harold said, “The most galling thing is that this is being done by a Labour council.”

Shockingly the proposals were pushed through by a vote of just 57 to 18 in favour, with four abstaining. Nearly 40 percent of the 126 councillors failed to even turn up.

It has been claimed that conflicts of interest prevented many Labour councillors from voting.

Harold doesn’t buy it. “I think it’s because it’s such a divisive issue they didn’t want to be tarred with that brush and were worried about getting re-elected,” he said. “You can see through the lies.”

Workers must demand Unison launches a full strike ballot immediately to resist the attack. Harold agreed, “We should go straight to a strike ballot—that’s the kind of action we need.”

Solidarity event hosted by Durham trades council, Thursday 9 June, 7pm, Durham Miners Association, Flass Street, DH1 4BE

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