County Durham Teaching Assistants to Stage More Strikes

County Durham Teaching Assistants to Stage More Strikes
County Durham’s teaching assistants will stage more strikes

County Durham’s teaching assistants have declared they will be staging further strikes next week. The industrial action will take place on Wednesday November 23rd and Thursday November 24th.

A list of the schools that will be affected can be found here. About 1,000 teaching assistants will be taking part in the strike.

Last week’s teaching assistants’ strike led to 43 schools closing. 100 schools were affected in total, with some managing to remain open while having to cancel certain lessons.

Picket lines were organised outside some schools. Most parents appear to have supported the TAs, with some even joining the strikers on picket duty.

Durham County Council has criticised the TAs and their unions for announcing the latest round of strikes on social media before officially notifying the council. But the TAs argue that they had to announce the strike quickly to ensure it would be legal.

Councillor Jane Brown, cabinet member for corporate services, commented, “We are extremely disappointed to have learnt about a second round of industrial action on social media, several hours before we received official notification.”

“It is particularly frustrating given that, despite offering to talk to Unison again last week, further industrial action has been announced.”

“We appeal to the unions and the teaching assistants not to progress with this action, but equally we hope that, as was the case last time, the vast majority of schools will be open.”

The dispute began when the council announced it wished to sack all its TAs and rehire them on different contracts. The new contracts would mean that the TAs would only be paid for the term-time hours they work and not for school holidays. The TAs say this would result in them losing up to 23% of their annual salaries.

One union representing TAs, the GMB, has agreed to a council deal whereby the changes will be delayed for two years. But the members of two other unions, Unison and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), voted by large majorities to take industrial action.

During last week’s strike, a mass rally was held at the Durham Miners’ Association, at Redhills, which around 1,500 people attended. Claire Williams, Unison’s northern regional secretary, said,

“It was standing room only and we still couldn’t fit everyone in. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that for a single group of workers.”

“The strength of feeling in this dispute runs deep with our members, who won’t be beaten by Durham County Council.”

“We are so proud of our teaching assistant members in Durham for their strength and resilience in this dispute.”

Addressing the rally, Unison leader Dave Prentis said, “Councillors should do the decent thing and settle this dispute. Schools can then return to normal and teaching assistants can go back to the job they love without worrying about how they will pay their bills.”

Durham County Council insists that the contract changes are necessary to avoid expensive equal pay claims from workers who are already employed on an hourly basis. It is estimated that the contract changes could save schools £3 million per year.

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