Durham County Council approves 23% teaching pay cut
Durham County Council has approved plans to cut the salaries of teaching assistants by nearly 23% by not paying them during school holidays.
The Labour authority voted in favour of changing 2,700 contracts from 52 weeks to term time-only.
The council said it would bring staff in line with the other 17,000 workers and "reduce the risk" of staff making claims for equal pay.
Union Unison said it was "bitterly disappointed" with the decision.
Regional officer, Helen Metcalf, said: "This is a devastating blow for the 2,700 teaching assistants in the county, who now face being driven into poverty and relying on food banks through losing £200 - £400 per month of their salary."
She said there was "no option" but to lodge a formal dispute and ballot members for industrial action.
Teaching assistant Tony Lowery, said: "It is really devastating for my family because I'm the main wager. I don't mean things like going on holidays or a second car, I mean things like food on the table and clothes on our backs."
Liberal Democrat councillors voted unanimously against the plans.
Councillor Owen Temple said the affected staff would "find themselves the poorest teaching assistants in the North East" and the council was "very likely to face legal challenge".
The council's corporate director of resources, Don McLure, said there was a "real risk" that, under the present contracts, other council employees could make claims for equal pay with the teaching assistants.
He said: "I fully understand the position teaching assistants are in but they are very valued, they do a great job and support the education of our children, but we are doing this to bring them in line with the rest of our workforce."
He said two consultations with assistants and the unions had failed to find agreement but it was hoped further discussions would resolve the matter without strike action being taken.