Socialist Worker

‘We’ve fire in our bellies’ say Durham teaching assistants

School staff in Durham are taking on a Labour-run council over cuts, report Simon Hall and Raymie Kiernan

Issue No. 2508

Part of the huge rally in support of the teaching assistants in Durham last Thursday

The huge rally in support of the teaching assistants in Durham last Thursday (Pic: MadeinTyneandWear)


Over 350 low paid teaching assistants (TAs) and their supporters rallied last Thursday as part of their campaign to resist new contracts.

TA Claire told Socialist Worker that the meeting, organised by County Durham Trades Council, was “fantastic”.

She said, “We’re a lot more geared up after it and we’ve fire in our bellies.”

The TAs are members of the Unison and GMB unions. They are disgusted that Labour-controlled Durham County Council is ramming through the contracts by sacking the entire workforce.

The council wants to get the new contracts in place by January 2017.

Workers could lose up to 23 percent of their pay and suffer worse conditions as a result. All 2,700 TAs will be affected.

Yet nearly 40 percent of the 126 councillors failed to even turn up to vote on the plan.

Pushed

It was pushed through by a vote of just 57 to 18 in favour.

Davey Hopper from the Durham Miners’ Association spoke at the rally. He was one of many speakers to criticise the council and pledge support for the TAs in whatever action they take.

The meeting endorsed a resolution supporting the campaign and any strikes the unions may call.

Unison has said it will only ballot for industrial action in October and claims it is doing work “behind the scenes”.

Sam is among many TAs who believe this is too late. She told Socialist Worker she felt that workers were being “fobbed off” by the union.

The TAs are disappointed that their unions have failed to move quicker.

As one asked, “What‘s the point of waiting? The council has made its decision.”

Many fear that a so-called “consultation” due to start this week is a sham and could be used to “divide and rule” the workforce.

Claire said, “Durham County Council are going ahead with this. We’ve no faith in the consultation.”

The TAs have launched a petition demanding a ballot for strikes as soon as possible and plan to march at the Durham Miners’ Gala on 9 July.

“We’re going to show that we’re standing together as one,” Claire said.

But time is short. The TAs aim to keep the pressure up on their union officials.

Claire said, “We’re urging them to be ready to ballot straight after the consultation ends in mid July.

“We’re all prepared to strike—and not just for one day but for a week. A day is not enough, we have to show we are serious about this.

“All the parents we’ve spoke to are fully behind us.”

The union leaderships must step up the fight and match the TAs’ determination to resist this appalling attack. Strikes can beat back the council.


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