Today (Thurs 24/11) is the 2nd day of the latest industrial action by Teaching Assistants (TAs) in County Durham. It’s received virtually no coverage in the national media.
Wherever you live, if you care about children, education, or about basic fairness or even have a healthy self-interest, it’s vital that you support a group of dedicated people working hard for children – who are being shafted, shamefully, by a Labour county council.
A Labour council that is prepared to issue a deeply misleading briefing and to attempt to block the local Labour party from even discussing what’s being done.
A full timeline of events to date and a response by the TAs to the deliberate misrepresentation of the facts are attached to the end of this article, but here are just a few of the ‘lowlights’ of the way these hard-working people are being treated:
- Durham’s Labour-led council has decided to sack and rehire thousands of TAs in order to impose a new contract on them – a tactic loved by Tories that a Labour council should hang its head in shame for even considering, let alone doing
- The new contract will result in a pay-cut of 20-25%, although the council has tried in various ways to fool people that it’s not a reduction in salary, just in holiday pay (I know). The consequences of this for already low-paid people are devastating:
- When the council voted on the issue, the only councillors to vote in favour belong to the Labour party (not all Labour councillors voted, some sent ‘apologies’ and did not attend). The 57 who attended were enough to carry the vote in favour of the move
- The excuse for the move is a supposed threat of ‘equality’ claims by staff in different roles, who are only paid in term-time. In other words, the council is going to avoid claims from those being poorly treated by dragging everyone down to the same shitty level
- The council has offered TAs ‘compensation’ if they accept the new contract. The ‘compensation’ consists of a 2-year delay in the pay cut – so it’s not actually compensation, just a delay
- The only way offered to TAs to gain back some of their lost cash is to work more hours. Many TAs cannot work extra hours because of family commitments – but even those who do will still be 10% worse off
- The extra hours are not guaranteed, but are at the discretion of individual head teachers. Some head teachers are refusing to offer them. Some are using them as blackmail
- The Labour council has put out a briefing document attempting to justify their position. This deeply misleading document has been forensically refuted by the TAs – a copy of the briefing with rebuttal is linked below, but the reality the councillors are trying to hide is brutal:
- Support for industrial action among TAs is huge, although the council are misrepresenting the numbers
The TAs have a question for the councillors and for their local Labour members. It’s a simple question and I bet I know what the answer is:
Whether you care about kids and the people who educate them; or just care about basic fairness; or even just care about yourself, you need to give Durham’s TAs your full support.
If a council can get away with this in Durham, it’s only a matter of time before your local council or other employer tries the same – affecting you or those you care about.
If you live in County Durham, make sure you show your support when you see striking TAs – and write to your councillor to tell them that any continuation of this scandalous treatment of good working people will result in their losing your vote. The threat of losing their power, influence and funds might just make these people see sense.
And wherever you live, be aware and be supportive. Durham’s TAs are not only fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for you and your kids, grandkids, neices, nephews.
And we all need them to win.