57 Labour councillors lined up today to approve the dismissal of 2,700 teaching assistants. They will then be offered their jobs back – minus 10% or more of their pay.
There is no surprise in that. It was pre-determined when the Labour Party refused permission to discuss the question in December, and then voted against a review of the position in January.
Lib Dem councillors including particularly Cllr Owen Temple have led this fight against our undemocratic and increasingly employee averse Labour councillors.
There are even more questions to be answered now though.
Where were the rest of the Labour councillors?
39 of the 96 Labour councillors were not in the chamber to vote. Some of us wondered whether Labour’s top brass called for a “named vote” in order to have something to beat the opposition with, or because they wanted to know exactly who they were going to have to whip into line in their own group. Time will tell.
Why did Councillor Napier duck his question?
Having stated that he had only become aware of the equality issue in teaching assistant’s pay contracts a year ago, Councillor Napier – deputy leader for nearly a decade (the most senior politician with responsibility in this area) didn’t answer the question of why he’d only known about it a year when the report said that the problems had been known since 2012.
It rather begs the question of who runs the council? And whether Cllr Napier and his colleagues are asleep on the job.
How did Labour Councillor Jane Brown, Portfolio Holder with responsibility on the council’s side, get hold of Unison’s legal advice?
The council has jealously guarded it’s own’s legal advice in order that it cannot fall into “the other side’s hands” – indeed initially we were refused permission to see it and only our group leader has had that opportunity after repeat requests. So how has “the other side’s” legal advice (She even mentioned the solicitor’s name, Thompsons) been provided to the Labour councillor in charge of HR?
Presumably this has nothing to do with the unions having free accommodation from the county council, together with part payment of union officials’ salaries! Is there really any difference between the Labour party and the unions? Who is fighting the corner of the employee?
Well done teaching assistants and their heads.
We were surprised that some teaching assistants had come to voice their concerns, and did so with the approval of their headteachers – only a small number – as the rest had to stay and look after children – proper dedication and professionalism.
I remain convinced that this decision will come back to bite the Council and that Labour’s decision to hang TAs out to dry has cost them any belief they have a moral backbone or work for the low paid in our county. Hopefully it will also cost them a raft of votes too.
A final thought – the Labour Party has cut TAs pay so much that a huge number of them will be required by law to have pay rises in the coming years as the living wage and minimum wage rise. TAs in County Durham are paid the lowest rate in the whole of the North East! A really sad state of affairs to think that someone working so hard to improve the education and well-being of our children is being paid a wage which barely keeps them above the poverty line – thanks to a LABOUR council.