COUNCILLORS will be asked on Wednesday to agree to a package of revised terms and conditions for its teaching assistants to be put to the ballot in a bid to solve a long-running dispute.

Durham County Council, which last year voted to dismiss its teaching assistants and re-employ them on contracts offering them less pay, has now proposed a new grading structure following a full review of their roles and responsibilities.

The dispute which has been running for 20 months, centres around changes the council wants to make to the school workers’ contracts to avoid equal pay claims from other employees.

Teaching assistants across the county took part in industrial action last year after voting to reject its previous proposal to pay them for working term-time only – which, they say, would have resulted in pay cuts of up to 23 per cent.

If agreed, the new deal will be put formally to trade unions and teaching assistants and ‘dismiss and re-engage notices’, which were suspended to enable the review to be completed, will be withdrawn.

The report sets out a 37-hour a week contract and a 40-week per year contract, while pay will be linked to grade, hours and weeks worked.

At the end of a two-year period and following the introduction of new job descriptions and grading structure, it is forecast that 78 per cent of the 2,168 teachings assistants would receive an increase in pay, according to the report.

Around 20 per cent of teaching assistants may see a reduction in pay, depending on how many hours and weeks they work and the grade they are employed at.

Durham County Council’s corporate director of resources, John Hewitt, said: “Throughout this process we have been clear that we have to address the equal pay risk in relation to hours and weeks worked by teaching assistants, but we have also listened carefully to issues raised.

“It’s important to say that we could not have got to this point without significant good will and hard work by the recognised trade unions, head teachers and the teaching assistants themselves and I would like to commend this partnership working.

He added: “Together we have done exactly what we promised to do back in December. It’s been an incredibly complex task which required aligning each teaching assistant to the new roles that have been developed and the specific circumstances in each school.

“The outcome of this work is that the vast majority of teaching assistants will see an improvement in their financial position.

“No-one has had their pay reduced at this stage and the proposals will ensure that no teaching assistant will see any reduction during the two year compensation period if they work the hours offered.

“We also recognise that there will still be some TAs who may see a reduction once that two year compensatory period is over, and we will therefore continue to work with the unions with a real focus on this group.”

It is hoped teaching assistants will vote on whether to accept it by the end of the summer term.

Easington teaching assistant Jan Clymo, from the County Durham Teaching Assistants Activists committee, said: “When TA’s get their individual letters the committee will be issuing a statement. After we have spoken to the TA’s as a collective.”