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Durham County Council respond to teaching assistants' strike action

Durham county council has responded to Unison's announcement that teaching assistants will stage a two day strike over a long running dispute over changes to their contracts.

Campaigners say plans to move teaching assistants to term-time pay could see school support staff lose up to 23% of their wages. Strike action will take place on 8 and 9 November.

Durham County Council say that the majority of staff have not voted to strike and that they have entered a year of negotiations with staff and unions.

Margaret Whellans, Durham County Council’s corporate director of children and young people’s services, said:

From the outset we have been clear that no one wants to be in this position. We face a substantial risk of equal pay claims and we have no choice other than to follow all but one other council in the North East and many nationally which already pay teaching assistants for term time only. The Council has been clear that the status quo is not an option.

We greatly value our teaching assistants and that is why we have done everything possible to minimise the impact of these changes on them. However it is only fair that staff are paid only for the hours they work. A very significant number of our teaching assistants have been paid for working 37 hours a week, whole time, when they actually worked 32.5 hours a week and term time only.

We have undertaken more than a year of negotiations with staff and unions, doubled the compensation offered to cover two years, offered to delay implementation of the changes, and worked with the unions and to resolve this. We have also been recruiting on the new terms since June 1 and no recruitment problems have been experienced resulting in all vacant posts being filled.

Our final offer – which was developed with mediation service ACAS - was accepted by two unions and a number of other staff, while Unison members voted to reject it. We have respected the outcome of those ballots, and offered compensation accordingly.

Around 40% of our teaching assistant workforce, from Unison and the ATL, have voted in favour of strike action, but it is important to note that the majority of staff have not voted to strike.

The Council is always willing to talk with unions and staff as it has throughout this process, however the two year compensation offer agreed through ACAS is the Council’s final offer.

The education and wellbeing of our children and young people are our primary concern and we will continue to work closely with headteachers and school governors to help them mitigate the impact of this strike on pupils.”

– Margaret Whellans, Durham County Council’s corporate director of children and young people’s service


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Teachers to stage two days of walkouts in October

Teachers will stage two days of walkouts in October in a row over pay, pensions and workload.

Teachers are set for a national strike before Christmas. Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

Two teaching unions have announced that their members in eight areas of England will strike in October with thousands of pupils set to be affected.

Unions NUT and NASUWT said members in the East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and the Eastern region will take part in a walkout on October 1.

Those in the North East, London, the South East and the South West will strike on October 17.

A national strike is likely to follow and take place before Christmas.

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'Relentless attack on teachers is damaging morale'

The two largest teachers' unions, who have announced they will go on strike before Christmas, have criticised Education Secretary Michael Gove for his "relentless attack" on the profession.

The Secretary of State needs to take seriously the very deep concerns and anger of teachers and school leaders.The relentless attack on the teaching profession is damaging the morale of teachers and undermining the education of pupils.

The Secretary of State has the opportunity to avoid further national strike action by demonstrating that he is willing to engage seriously on the issues that we have put to him.

– Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT

Michael Gove is well aware that under his time as Education Secretary, teacher morale has plummeted. Teachers are angry at the Government’s continual undermining of their pay, pensions and working conditions.

Strike action is always a last resort for teachers and they are very well aware of the difficulties that this causes for parents and pupils. Teachers, however, have been left with no option. If we do not take a stand now to defend the profession, then the consequences for teacher recruitment and education will be disastrous for all.

– Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT


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Teaching unions to outline plans for strike action

Teachers on strike in London Credit: Jeff Moore/Jeff Moore/Empics Entertainment

The two largest teachers' unions in England and Wales are to outline plans for strike action later today.

In July, the NUT and NASUWT unions announced they would hold a one-day national strike, as well as rolling regional strikes in September and October. They have not stated the exact dates of the strikes.

Both unions are in a dispute with the government over pay, conditions and pensions.

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Public sector staff 'face another year of financial hardship'

The Government has announced that almost 1.4 million public sector employees will receive a 1% pay rise from next month.

The Treasury said recommendations from a number of pay review bodies had been accepted, sparking anger from unions.

Unison, which represents 450,000 NHS workers including nurses, paramedics, therapists and midwives, said staff face another year of financial hardship.

The union condemned the second successive 1% annual increase as a "squeeze" on pay, which officials warned would leave many health workers and their families struggling to make ends meet.