Last night at Redhills, the famous home of the Durham Miners, hundreds of women mistreated by their employer came together and showed they won’t be divided, won’t be intimidated and won’t be beaten.
The way teaching assistants in Durham – and Derby – have been treated should outrage anyone who has a shred of common decency. Losing up to a quarter of your salary, especially if you’re already paid far less than your work is worth, places you in a desperate situation. Falling into debt. Forced to sell your home. In some cases driven from a job you love.
That this is being carried out by Labour councils, who should know better, makes the situation even more maddening and even harder to explain.
But I am so proud of UNISON members who have stood together as one and shown that they are up for the fight. And if Durham Council want to join their colleagues in Derby by slashing pay, they will be made to rue the day.
I hope and expect Durham TAs will vote for strike action next week. When schools are closed or short-staffed by industrial action, perhaps then Durham Council will appreciate their immense value.
I know that communities across Durham understand what a difference teaching assistants make to the lives of the children they work with – whether they’re learning to talk or learning to read – TAs are there from before the first bell and still there long after the last child has left.
Parents, teachers and children value that work. UNISON values that work. And now Durham Council must value that work too.
I will be back in Durham, joining the picket lines on the first day of industrial action and I know the whole of our union will give their support and solidarity to Durham members as they have to members in Derby.
Together we can end the injustice of massive pay cuts for those who care for our kids.
Together, we can and will show Durham Council they have messed with the wrong group of amazing, inspiring and dedicated workers.