This week, I’ve been at Brighton with unions from across the country at the TUC, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to speak to and on behalf of Derby teaching assistants and other school support staff in Westminster yesterday.
Hundreds of them came – travelling down to London on their strike day – to lobby MPs about the way their council is treating them.
Pay cuts of 25%, fewer hours and a reduction in the number of weeks paid each year – all of which serve to push already low paid workers even closer to the brink. Like TAs fighting their council in Durham, they’ve been treated awfully.
UNISON – and all of our 1.3 million members – stands with these teaching assistants and school support staff – and we’ll continue to do so every day until they get the deal they deserve.
It’s especially bad to see these brilliant public servants treated this way when you consider the vital work that they do for our children. Teachers couldn’t teach without teaching assistants and all the other vital support roles in our schools, and parents – who know only too well the value of the work TAs do – are horrified by the way they’re being treated.
Yet this vital resource is under threat.
Of course the council aren’t the only ones responsible for this – although they are the ones making the terrible and self defeating decision.
These cuts are happening because of the cruel squeeze on finances from Westminster, as the government continues its austerity fuelled war on public services.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister only a few weeks ago, she claimed that she would focus on the interests of working class families. If she wants to do that, she’ll need to start by ending and reversing senseless cuts in pay and services.
And she should work towards real and meaningful education reforms, not the backwards return to grammar schools.
So let’s see teaching assistants on full time contracts on a permanent basis, paid all year round.
Let’s see school support staff pay set in the same way as teachers so school employers can’t undermine pay and conditions.
And let’s demand that Labour councils like Derby and Durham stop slashing your wages, invest in our children’s education, and pay people what they deserve.
This is what we’re fighting for, and I promise UNISON will fight every step of the way.