Socialist Worker

'Labour has stabbed us in the back'—Durham teaching assistants resist cuts

Teaching assistants face vicious attacks at the hands of Labour councils. Raymie Kiernan talks to workers who are refusing to take it lying down

Issue No. 2507

Teaching assistants protest against Labours shameful attack on their pay

Teaching assistants protest against Labour's shameful attack on their pay


Labour councils’ spineless implementation of Tory cuts means real suffering. And the workers affected are angry.

Teaching assistant Claire works in a special needs school doing a job she “absolutely loves”.

She thought she would be doing the job until she retired. That was until “Durham County Council decided I should do the same job for over £2,000 a year less”.

Durham is a Labour authority. It recently voted to sack 2,700 teaching assistants (TAs) and rehire them on worse contracts that will cut their pay by up to 23 percent.

Claire said, “Apparently it’s all to do with ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ but I can’t see anything fair or equal about this.”

The council claims if it doesn’t attack the majority female and low paid TAs it could face equal pay claims.

Abhorrent

Labour MP for Easington Grahame Morris has called the sackings “abhorrent”.

“I’ve voted Labour all my life,” Claire told Socialist Worker. “It’s supposed to be for working people but it has stabbed us in the back. I won’t be voting Labour again if this goes through.”

In Derby, the Labour-run council has launched a similar assault. TAs who refused to accept a 20-25 percent pay cut were sacked this week—despite the council’s package failing its own equality test.

Instead of bleating about “difficult choices” why not defy the Tories and call for a fightback?

Labour’s cowardice has cruel consequences.

Claire said, “I’m also going to lose the money I earn from doing respite care. I go straight from work two nights a week and one day a weekend. I look after two girls with very complex medical needs so I’ve had to have a lot of training to look after the girls.

“If I’m having to work an extra hour every night, I won’t be able to have them.”

It is people like Claire who face the real difficult choices. Does she give up the caring work that provides a lifeline for families or work seven days a week to continue that and survive?

Claire looks after an 18 year old woman called Chloe whose mum has spoken out about the devastating impact of Durham Labour’s cuts on her family.

Chloe’s mum Claire said the cuts would affect “many other families”. She said the combination of challenges Chloe faces means “forming any relationships outside of her immediate family is rare”.

Lifeline

Chloe requires 24-hour care, which takes its toll on Claire and her husband. The respite that teaching assistant Claire provides is “a lifeline”. The few hours a week that gives Chloe “her own independent social life” is “invaluable and irreplaceable”.

The Durham TAs feel cheated and undervalued by Labour. TA Claire said, “We don’t just wash paint pots—schools couldn’t run without us.

“We’re not going to take this lying down.”

The Unison union represents most of the TAs in Durham. But many worry about the lack of communication from their union.

Unison has said it will only ballot for industrial action after a council consultation period ends on 15 July. But the council has already voted this attack through, and the campaign has been going on for seven or eight months.

Unison has said the earliest strike would be mid-October.

“That’s just crazy,” Claire said. “If we’re going to strike it needs to be September when we can have the biggest impact at the start of term.”

The Durham TAs need to pressure their union officials to move quicker into battle.

In Derby Unison members recently voted by 84 percent for industrial action, but the council’s attack has already gone through.

If the officials would rather maintain a cosy relationship with Labour councillors than fight for their members’ interests then they must be swept aside.

The TAs can win.

Go to County Durham Trades Council Supports Teaching Assistants on Facebook

Janitors strike back over pay against Labour in Glasgow

Striking janitors protesting on Monday outside council offices in Glasgow

Striking janitors protesting on Monday outside council offices in Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)


Janitors on strike in Glasgow rallied outside a Labour group council meeting on Monday, chanting, “Labour group—out.”

They are on strike for a week against pay inequality at the council’s semi-privatised firm Cordia.

Bosses refuse to pay the janitors the same as other workers who do similar jobs.

Labour doesn’t want to intervene because “arm’s length” firms such as Cordia are helping it drive down conditions.

“You’re a disgrace—funding your own lifestyles,” one janitor shouted.

“None of us will be voting for you next year.”

Another striker bellowed, “Never.”


‘Labour must resist’—says councillor

Trying to run services with funding cuts is an “impossible challenge”. That’s according to Rachel Heywood, a south London Labour councillor.

Lambeth Labour last week suspended her from the Labour group for six months for opposing Lambeth Labour cuts.

Heywood said, “My duty is to represent my constituents and give a voice to people whose voices are often not heard.” But she warned her party that it could suffer “the most terrible of lost opportunities” by not launching national resistance to council cuts.

“Policies that are all about wealth creation and economic growth do not answer the needs of the people I represent,” Heywood told Socialist Worker.

Some Labour councillors see people as numbers on council balance sheets and accept the horrendous impact of their cuts on people’s lives. They are falling into the Tories’ trap.


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