HUNDREDS of teaching assistants and their supporters took to the streets of Durham for a noisy, but peaceful protest, as their dispute over new contracts continues.
They staged a demonstration outside County Hall in support of their long-running dispute before heading into the city centre for a rally and to leaflet members of the public.
Union members say they hope to keep their dispute in the public eye and have held a five-day demonstration outside the council’s headquarters during February half-term.
Talks between the council and unions Unison, Unite and GMB resumed in December following four days of strikes.
Durham County Council agreed to undertake a full review of the role and responsibilities of the 2,400 teaching assistants who work for the authority, which is due to be completed by September.
The dispute is over changes which would mean teaching assistants will be paid only during term-time, which they say would result in a pay cut of up to 23 per cent, or ten per cent if they agree to do more hours.
Teaching assistant Jan Clymo, said: “A lot of people think it’s sorted and it’s not. It’s still in negotiations.
“Today has been excellent. We have had up to 300 people taking part. We are handing out leaflets to thank the public for their support, which has been brilliant.
“Because there has been such a lull over Christmas, we need to let people know we are still here and we are still fighting.”
John Hewitt corporate director of resources at Durham County Council CC, said: “As we promised we are working hard with recognised trade unions to complete the review of the roles, functions, job descriptions and activities of our teaching assistants.
“To undertake this review we have set up a project board together. The board has met regularly since the review commenced and will continue to do so.
“The board is supported by two work streams, one comprising of 15 teaching assistants, the other of head teachers.
“Their views are fed into the board to ensure all aspects and perspectives are taken into consideration.
“Everyone wants to ensure that this is a thorough job and we are working hard to ensure the review considers all options for the future, takes all views into consideration and can be completed as quickly as possible.”