Durham teaching assistants back ballot for strike action over pay

Teaching assistants in Durham have overwhelmingly rejected a new pay proposal from the county council, their union UNISON has announced today (Wednesday).

UNISON held a consultative ballot over council plans to move 2,700 classroom assistants onto term-time contracts, which could see them lose up to £6,000 a year.

Durham County Council’s proposals were put to the largely female workforce two weeks ago. Seventy-eight per cent of UNISON members who responded voted to reject the plans.

UNISON will now notify the council of its decision to move to a vote on strike action, and will begin sending ballot papers to the classroom support workers early next week.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Teaching assistants are dedicated and committed individuals who are already on low wages. Many can barely make ends meet as it is.

“Striking is a last resort but these low-paid employees feel they have no choice but to consider taking action. Teaching assistants make a real difference in the classroom — teachers couldn’t teach without them and parents value them. It’s a pity the county council appears not to recognise their worth too

“UNISON is fully behind the Durham teaching assistants, whatever course of action they choose to take.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON balloted a total of 1,686 teaching assistants. Seventy-eight per cent voted to reject the County Council’s proposals and twenty-two per cent voted to accept.

– Councillors voted in May to dismiss the classroom assistants and re-employ them on new term-time contracts. This process will begin next month.

– Derby teaching assistants, whose pay is also being downgraded by their council, took their case to Labour party conference in Liverpool yesterday (Tuesday). Labour-led Derby City Council put 4,000 school support workers on term-time only contracts this June.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Sophie Goodchild M: 07767 325595 E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk