County Durham teaching assistants' strike action called off

Teaching assistants protest at a roadside
Image caption Assistants have already taken part in two 48-hour stoppages this month

A strike by teaching assistants in County Durham has been called off so talks aimed at resolving the dispute can take place.

Members of Unison and ATL unions were due to take action on Thursday over proposals to impose new contracts.

The new contracts would pay them only during term time - resulting in cuts of up to 23%.

Following what Durham County Council described as "productive talks" it said it would review the situation.

Early reports suggested three days of action planned for next week had also been suspended, but Unison has now said a decision will be taken following more talks with the council.

John Hewitt, the council's corporate director of resources, said: "We have agreed to undertake a review of teaching assistants' roles, function, job description and activities within the breadth of school activities, to establish whether current job descriptions adequately describe the role being undertaken.

"This review will not reopen the single status agreement currently in place. The timescale for its completion is September 2017.

"To enable this to take place, as an act of good will, we have agreed we will suspend the dismissal and re-engage process while the review is undertaken."

'Good faith'

Unison described the move as an "important step".

Northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: "Disputes are only ever solved through negotiation.

"At last there can be proper talks, without the threat of huge pay cuts hanging over teaching assistants' heads.

"Everyone is hoping that councillors now act in good faith, abandon their pay cut plans once and for all, and show how much they value their brilliant teaching assistants."

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