Derby teaching assistants take their pay dispute to Labour party conference

Derby teaching assistants have taken their dispute over pay to the Labour party conference in Liverpool today (Tuesday) in a bid to win support from MPs and increase pressure on Derby City Council.

More than 200 teaching assistants have travelled to the north west while they take a day of strike action that has seen the full and partial closure of schools in Derby.

The teaching assistants stand to lose up to £6,000 a year because the Labour-led council put 4,000 staff on term-time only contracts in June, says UNISON.

Their case was highlighted by the union in the education debate today at conference, along with that of teaching assistants in Durham whose pay is also being downgraded by a Labour-run council.

The Durham school support staff face having to work extra hours for no additional pay, as well as being placed onto term-time contracts. The results of a UNISON consultation ballot of teaching assistants across the county on council proposals will be announced tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

UNISON believes term-time contracts for some of the lowest paid staff working in UK schools are divisive, bad for morale, unfair, and support staff should be treated like teachers, who are paid all year round.

Derby UNISON branch secretary — who is in Liverpool for the Labour party conference — Nicole Berrisford said: “School support staff are among the lowest paid public sector workers yet they’re paying the price of continued government spending cuts. They simply cannot afford to lose £6,000 when they are already struggling to make ends meet.

“Derby City Council is pushing people into poverty. Teaching assistants are already having to sell their homes because they can’t afford their mortgages.

“Parents — especially those with children who have special educational needs — don’t want to see teaching assistants treated like this. They value the vital work they do, often supporting their children often over many years. It’s time that the council recognised their worth too.

Notes to editors:
–  Level 2 teaching assistants in Derby were previously paid £21,000 per year but now get £15,000 — a cut of nearly 30%.

–  Derby City Council has withdrawn its offer of a one-off payment of £2,000 that was only to be paid to 250 teaching assistants working with children with special educational needs. The offer had previously been rejected in a ballot of staff.

– Derby teaching assistants will be leafleting council leader Ranjit Banwait next Thursday (6 October), when they take another day of strike action.

– UNISON wants a standard 37-hour week for school staff in Derby, payable all year round, and the reinstatement of a special classroom allowance of £1,200 that was scrapped in June.

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