STRIKING teaching assistants were on the picket lines at primary schools across County Durham yesterday as they staged their second 48-hour strike against draconian pay cuts.
Pickets stood at more than 100 primary schools, and some schools have closed for the duration of the strike.
Today the teaching assistants will hold a noon rally outside Durham County Hall followed by a march through the historic city. More than 1,000 strikers and supporters are expected.
Labour-controlled Durham County Council plans to introduce term-time-only pay contracts for the assistants, meaning a pay cut of 23 per cent, equal to up to £6,000 a year.
Members of public service union Unison and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have rejected the proposal.
The council, which is struggling to cope with government cuts, responded by saying the assistants will be sacked and re-employed only if they sign the new contracts.
The strikers have set up the County Durham teaching assistants activists committee, which said: “We are extremely disappointed to find ourselves, yet again, forced into taking industrial action due to Durham County Council’s failure to engage in meaningful negotiations with our representative unions.”
The committee accused the council of attempting to “smear” the teaching assistants in letters to parents and via the media.
It said it was ready to negotiate, and called for a new “job evaluation” of the teaching assistants’ roles and a regrading exercise.
Tomorrow the assistants start a work to rule.
When one of our children with additional needs came up and hugged his TA this morning it made us all realise why we do this! We all put everything into this job and we are worth every penny we are paid! - says Denise
I felt empowered fighting for something I really believe in. However, also very sad that it has had to come to this. - says Lucy
We had support from teachers, office staff, parents and breakfast club staff and governors. A fabulous feeling of support and solidarity and can’t wait for round two tomorrow! - says Helen