NEGOTIATIONS are restarting this week between a local authority and union in a long-running dispute over teaching assistants’ contracts.

Durham County Council is undertaking a full review of the role and responsibilities of the 2,400 teaching assistants who work for the authority.

Talks between the council and unions Unison, Unite and GMB started last month following four days of strike action by teaching assistants over changes to their contracts.

The County Durham Teaching Assistants Committee says negotiations were due to restart this week.

The council had planned to sack teaching assistants on December 31 and re-hire them on the new contracts on January 1.

However, this was suspended to allow a review to take place, which is due to be completed by September.

John Hewitt, Durham County Council’s corporate director for resources, said: “Talks are continuing between unions and ourselves, with a full review of the role and responsibilities of Durham teaching assistants underway.”

Teaching assistant Trish Fay, who has helped organise the social media campaign, said: “This is not over, they have only suspended, not withdrawn, the new contracts while negotiations are under way but we do now have the opportunity to work with the council to review our roles, which have changed massively over the last five years.

“However, if we don’t see real progress in the next few months TAs, Unison and ATL are clear that we will not hesitate to reinstate our industrial action to ensure we get a fair solution for all teaching assistants.”

Teaching Assistant Anne Richardson added: “We are determined to find a solution with the council that does not see us losing money and then we can get back to what we do best – supporting the children in our schools.”

Unison and ATL called off four days of strike action planned for December to allow the talks to take place.

The dispute is over changes so teaching assistants will be paid during term-time only.

Teaching assistants say the move would result in a pay cut of up to 23 per cent, or 10 per cent if they agree to do more hours.

The issue has been ongoing for around 18 months, with the council deciding to make the changes following legal advice that existing arrangements leave it at risk of equal pay challenges.