Socialist Worker

Rank and file teaching assistants are taking their union leaders to school

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2522

Durham teaching assistants are fighting against 23 percent pay cuts

Durham teaching assistants are fighting against 23 percent pay cuts (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Striking teaching assistants lobbied MPs on Wednesday of last week, with five coachloads travelling down to Westminster from Derby.

The Unison union members struck for 24 hours against a 25 percent pay cut imposed by Derby City Council in June.

They rejected the Labour council’s latest “insulting, derisory and divisive” offer to give 250 workers a £2,000 payment and the other 900 nothing.

Moving

The council is moving to term time only contracts as part of an equal pay review, costing some workers up to £500 per month.

Teaching assistants at Durham County Council face the same attack, rubber stamped by Labour councillors last week.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis blamed the “cruel squeeze on finances from Westminster, as the government continues its austerity fuelled war on public services”.

He also criticised both Labour councils as “the ones making the terrible and self defeating decision”. He pledged the union would back the workers “every day until they get the deal they deserve”.

Someone should tell Unison officials such as Helen Metcalf, regional organiser in Durham, who talked up the council’s offer there as “much improved”.

As a rank and file committee pointed out, “It is the same offer as before with a slight variation.”

We are not just fighting for ourselves but also for the future of our profession, our schools and our children. Together we are stronger and we can win this

Rank and file committee

Workers will still lose between 20-25 percent of their pay—unless they work an extra 4.5 hours a week to lose 10 percent.

Unison is currently running a consultative ballot on this “final” offer. The rank and file group is agitating to reject it and demand a strike ballot.

Around 400 teaching assistants joined meetings it organised last week. They ran their own ballot, which produced a 97 percent vote to strike.

The council and Unison both state it is the “best deal that can be reached by negotiation”.

The rank and file argue, “That doesn’t mean it’s the best we can get by industrial action.

“We are not just fighting for ourselves but also for the future of our profession, our schools and our children. Together we are stronger and we can win this.”


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