UK teaching assistants march in Durham to oppose pay cuts and attacks on conditions


UK teaching assistants march in Durham to oppose pay cuts and attacks on conditions

Liz Smith

30 March 2017

Over 1,000 teaching assistants (TAs) and their supporters marched through Durham in the north of England Saturday, demanding an end to proposed cuts to their pay and conditions.

Among the supporters were TAs from Derby, who have been involved in a similar dispute and have taken industrial action to protest drastic cuts.

The 2,700 teaching assistants have been involved in an 18-month dispute with Labour Party-run Durham County Council. The council wants to slash their contracts from 52 to 39 weeks a year, paying them only in school term-time. They propose to fire and then rehire staff on a contract that will result in a 23 percent pay cut—or 10 percent if they work longer hours for no extra pay. For some this would mean a pay cut of up to £5,000 [US$6,220] a year.

The cuts will hit Durham TAs particularly hard as the council pays its TAs one of the lowest rates in the country.

The TAs carried out four days of strikes last year but their action was called off in November by the Unison public sector trade union, when the council—who originally intended to impose the new contracts in January—suspended the action pending further talks.

Whilst the majority of TAs are in Unison, those in the GMB were forced, under pressure from the union leadership, to accept a two-year compensation deal and an agreement stipulating that they would not be put on the new inferior contracts until next April. Nearly 47 percent of GMB members voted against the deal.

Durham council has utilised legislation contained in the 2010 Equality Act to impose the pay cut. The council argues it has to slash wages and conditions to avoid equal pay claims from other staff, such as cleaners and…

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