Teaching assistants urge public to support their dispute with Derby council

Derby teaching assistants – striking today (Thursday) for the eighth time since the city council cut their pay in June – are taking their campaign into the community to get the public to lobby councillors on their behalf.

The classroom assistants have been in dispute with their employer since last September when the council announced plans to put them onto term-time contracts. The move means some employees will lose as much as £6,000 a year.

The mostly female workforce will be out leafleting today (Thursday) on the streets of Boulton ward in Alvaston where council leader Ranjit Banwait has his seat. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis will be joining them after first visiting a picket line at Lakeside community school.

Over 100 teaching assistants will be asking local residents and businesses to send letters to the council leader urging him to back down over the decision. It means school support staff now get paid for fewer weeks a year, and those working full-time have to work longer hours for less pay.

This is the third time the Derby teaching assistants have met Dave Prentis in recent weeks. The first was in September when they took their case to Westminster to lobby MPs, then last week they visited Liverpool to lobby the Labour party conference.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Teaching assistants do a sterling job, and are much valued by parents and teachers. It’s a pity Derby Council doesn’t feel the same way about them.

“School support staff were already on a low wage before the council decided to make them work longer for less. This callous decision is already putting an unbearable strain on family budgets and risks families falling into debt. They deserve so much better than to be pushed into poverty by a Labour council.

Derby City council teaching assistant Jill Hart said: “We aren’t striking for more money, we just want the council to give our wages back.

“We’re all experiencing huge financial difficulties because of the pay cut. I’m in debt for the first time in my life, and have had to get a second job just to keep a roof over my head and put food on the table.

“Teaching assistants are passionate about their work and children’s education. We do so much more than sharpen pencils and listen to children read. But many of my colleagues are leaving because they cannot afford to stay.”

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%.

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

– Dave Prentis will be on the picket line from 8am at Lakeside Community School, London Road, Derby DE24 8UY. He will then join around 100 teaching assistants at the Blue Peter Pub, Derby DE23 0EJ at 9.30am for a briefing before helping them leaflet local houses and businesses.

Media contacts:
– Alex Porter T: 0115 847 5439 M: 07961 475607 E: a.porter@unison.co.uk
– Adrian Morgan T: 0115 847 5464 M: 07939 478418 E: a.morgan@unison.co.uk
– Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk