Socialist Worker

School workers wage a class war in Durham

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2530

Durham teaching assistants on the picket line - for many it was their first strike

Durham teaching assistants on the picket line - for many it was their first strike (Pic: @TAs_Durham)


Teaching assistants (TAs) in Durham are waging an inspiring struggle that shows how to respond to council bosses’ attacks.

They ended a two-day strike last Wednesday as they stepped up their revolt against Labour-run Durham County Council’s attack on their pay.

There were over 80 picket lines across Durham schools last week and over 1,000 protested at the county hall.

The council is going to sack over 2,000 TAs—and rehire them on up to 23 percent less pay.

The TAs are mainly Unison union members, but some are in the ATL. They have had to force their officials into action.

At last Saturday’s Unite the Resistance conference, TA Megan Charlton said that in the beginning unions “were sitting back and allowing this to happen”.

“They were telling us there wasn’t really anything we could do,” she added. “But we said, ‘We are the union and we’re damn well going to make them fight.’”

At a standing room only rally inside Durham Miners Hall, the pressure they have brought to bear was clear.Unison regional secretary Clare Williams told the rally, “This region is 100 percent with you. It will stay with you until the council come back to the table and stop this proposal to cut TAs’ pay.”

Unison leader Dave Prentis said, “Nobody will be forced back to work through hardship. We will protect you, we will be with you—and we will win.”

Escalating

TAs should remember these words—and push for a programme of escalating strikes every week from now until Christmas.

They know themselves that the officials will only respond to pressure. The TAs also face Labour politicians and council chiefs who are out of touch.

While they push through the attack, the heads of education and children’s services enjoy salaries of up to £111,000 a year.

Lisa Turnbull from the TAs’ committee spoke for the rank and file at the strike rally.

“What the council fail to realise is that there’s an impact on us,” she said.

“You’re trying to run your life as normal. There’s people in your family with health issues, or you’re trying to bring up children, or trying to keep your money or keep your house. They don’t see that, they see you as a number in a school.

“But, by god I wish they could see the numbers that are stood here today.

“We’ve found strength we never knew we had. We’ll never be the same—but why go back when we can fight like we are?”

Send the TAs a solidarity message through the rank and file committee, request a speaker to address your union branch and find out how to donate to their fighting fund spartacusannie@gmail.com

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