Socialist Worker

Dirty tricks from Durham Labour council as teaching assistants ballot for strikes

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2524

Durham TAs joined marchers in Birmingham last Sunday opposing the Tory party conference but its Labour implementing austerity in the north east county

Durham TAs joined marchers in Birmingham last Sunday opposing the Tory party conference but it's Labour implementing austerity in the north east county (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Labour-run Durham County Council is playing classic divide and rule to ram through its 23 percent cut to teaching assistants' (TAs) pay in the hope it can undermine a move towards strikes.

Today, Tuesday, the council announced different standards as to how its axe will fall to try and pit TAs against each other and convince them that strikes cannot achieve better results.

The council has said it will treat the very small minority of TAs accepting its offer of two years' “compensation” differently to members of Unison, the majority union that is balloting for strikes.

Over 1,700 TAs were set to begin the strike ballot on Thursday after a massive vote to reject the Labour authority’s cut to the pay of already low paid workers—2,700 in total.

The council has extended the deadline for “non-Unison” members to accept its offer and reject striking. This is a new low in a shameful story from a Labour council.

TAs should demand the national Labour leadership condemns such tactics and offers practical solidarity to boost their fight.


The ballot for strike could not come at a better time to galvanise anger. The key task now is to make sure that vote is as large as possible and send a clear message that TAs will not be intimidated.

TA Jan told Socialist Worker, “The majority of us are prepared to strike—we can’t afford not to.”

Many are also looking to build wider support, such as by having Unison general secretary Dave Prentis head up a big rally or producing a leaflet aimed at parents.

After months of union inaction, TAs have forced Unison to fight. The strike ballot is the result of rank and file pressure on its regional and national leadership and fears that its failure to fight could lose members.

The TAs now need massive solidarity to help them win this fight against a dirty employer that will use any trick it can to ram through these cuts.

Send a solidarity message and requests for a TA to speak at your trade union branch to the rank and file committee at [email protected]

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