Teaching assistants have voted by 93 percent to strike against huge pay cuts being pushed by County Durham Labour councillors.
The already low paid, largely female workforce could see pay slashed by up to 23 percent in a move that Labour councillors have absurdly claimed is all about “equality”.
Unison union rep and rank and file teaching assistants’ (TAs) committee member Megan spoke to Socialist Worker.
She said, “I’m over the moon that TAs have had the courage and strength to stand up to these life-changing pay cuts.”
Megan added, “I personally stand to lose £3,500 a year but many others could lose £4,000 or £5,000.”
Unison represents the overwhelming majority of the 2,700 TAs in Durham. ATL union members also voted by 84 percent to strike.
The council claims its attack amounts to a 10 percent pay cut but this is only if TAs work an extra 4.5 hours a week. Those who cannot do that will lose thousands of pounds a year.
Many will be forced out of the job they love because they cannot afford to accept such drastic cuts to pay and Durham schools will lose very experienced staff.
A series of protests, rallies and constant campaigning pressurised officials into action and built a rank and file network across the county. The TAs’ campaign has also drawn in Labour Party members who are helping build wider public support.
Last week Durham Miners Hall was filled again with around 400 TAs, this time at a rally addressed by Unison leader Dave Prentis. He must ensure an urgent national appeal goes out to Unison branches for financial support and solidarity for the Durham TAs.
The teaching assistants will need the full backing of their union and the trade union movement against a council that has resorted to dirty tricks to ram through its attack.
“We’re not asking for a penny more,” said Megan. “The council has forced us into this and we’re determined to fight just to keep what we’ve got.”
TAs will maintain a protest outside Durham County Hall all this week with industrial action likely after October half term. Many TAs don’t just want token one-day action—they want the officials to lead and lay out a strategy to win.