The City of Durham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has voted to support County Durham’s teaching assistants in their dispute with Durham County Council. On Saturday, the constituency party backed motions tabled by its Witton Gilbert and Sherburn District Branches, which sided with the TAs.
The long-running dispute between the teaching assistants and Durham County Council is over pay. The council wishes to fire all its TAs and then rehire them on different contracts. The new contracts would only pay the TAs for term-time work and not for school holidays. The TAs say this could leave them up to £5,000 a year out of pocket.
One union, the GMB, managed to reach a compromise with the council, but two other unions, Unison and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), voted to strike. These unions have held four days of strike action so far and have recently announced a work to rule.
The Sherburn Branch’s secretary, Keith Smith, said, “This is something that needs to get sorted.”
“It’s a very difficult situation, but members are not happy with anyone taking a pay cut.”
“The councillors have had to follow the whips, but we aren’t happy with that.”
The decision to back the motion puts the City of Durham Constituency Labour Party at loggerheads with Durham County Council, which is itself Labour dominated.
And the council is also in disagreement with the Labour Party’s national leadership, with Jeremy Corbyn voicing his support for the TAs. At this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala, Jeremy Corbyn said,
“Get this thing sorted, please. A school is like a microcosm of society – a school needs cleaners, a school needs caretakers, a school needs admin, a school needs assistants, a school needs teachers.”
“Don’t divide us up – bring us together to deliver the best of education for all our children.”
The TAs say, however, that they urgently need more support from the Labour leadership, as they could face the sack as early as 31st December.
— Angela Braban (@AngelaBraban) November 20, 2016
— Iam Spartacus (@SpartacusDurham) November 19, 2016
The chair of Durham City CLP, and county councillor for Coxhoe, Maria Plews, said, “Every single one of us councillors doesn’t want this. We don’t want this situation or to be in this position.”
“It breaks our heart that we have to do this.”
“We hope that talks between the unions and the council resolve this issue.”
Unison has threatened more strike action, but the union is also engaged in talks with the council.
Durham County Council commented, “We are meeting again this week in an effort to find a resolution to this issue.”