Teaching Assistants in Durham protesting against pay cuts. Photo: @TAs_Durham Teaching Assistants in Durham protesting against pay cuts. Photo: @TAs_Durham

Teaching Assistants in Durham won’t accept a pay cut imposed by the council, writes Lizzy Anderson

Durham County Council says it is going to sack and re-engage their Teaching Assistants and Higher Level Teaching Assistants on to term time only contracts to prevent any equality risk claims from other County council employees, although no equality risk claims have been made. This will see Teaching Assistants losing 23% of their salary.

Jane Brown from DCC says it is only 10%, which is true if we accept working the 37-hour-a-week contracts proposed when we have been contracted to work 32.5 hours. This is insulting when many of us already work above and beyond our contract hours, and this goodwill will go along with highly trained, skilled and experienced staff who cannot afford to stay and who are heartbroken and stressed by these proposals.

To add further insult, compensation of a money offer was made for 2 years if proposals were accepted, and lowered to 1 year if they were not. TAs and HLTAs argue that they will be out of a job in one or two years as the salary slash is unjust and too severe. Hence the overwhelming NO from the majority of Teaching Assistants, who are Unison members, when they voted yesterday. Our salary is that of a TA or HLTA, we have never been paid for not working over the school holidays: our salary was shared in to 12 payments due to the school holidays. In short, our salaries, county by county, have been unfairly reduced. This is not equality, it‘s outrageous.

Dave Prentis also supports UK TAs’ and HLTAs’ aim to end term time contracts in schools, along with Jeremy Corbyn, who told DCC to ‘get it sorted’. We aim to get us all our full salaries back. County Durham is the lowest paid salary for a level 3 TA and cannot afford to take another unfair financial blow. We have asked our jobs to be regraded so we are in line with other pay scales in other counties. Stockton, 28 miles up the road, is on £20,135 – £23,06, where on the same level 3 in Durham we are paid £16,772 – £18,560. On top of that, take 23% away if you can’t work or are not offered the 37 hours by individual Head Teachers, or take 10% away if you can work the extra hours (for less pay), taking us up to 37 hours a week.

This is all done by DCC to prevent equality risk claims, and to also make up an error on their part where they claim we have been paid for 37 hours instead of our contractual hours, which are 32.5. It would be nice to be valued and paid correctly in the first place and for councils to acknowledge we already work beyond our contract hours and often have far more stresses and responsibilities that we don’t get paid for.

Is the next step to sue to claim back money owed? No, because apparently individual councils can make up what they pay, along with head teachers. Really? We would like this checked out under the name of ‘equality’, and if we also find out we have been paid unequally due to gender then that will be another hornet’s nest that will be stirred up. We at UK Teaching Assistants and HLTAs say NO alongside Durham and Derby TAs and HLTAs. We will get this addressed for us all and we will get our TA standards back and used by the DfE. Enough is enough.

Durham Teaching Assistants links

Durham Teaching Assistants on Twitter