Monday, 28 November 2016

The Pride of the Durham Lions

Kevin Maguire writes:

The inspiring Durham Lions are a roar against the contemptuous treatment of millions of working people in Britain as cheap disposable labour. Chancellor Philip Hammond’s mini-Budget was a grim monument to catastrophic Tory failure when average wages five years hence will still be worth less than eight years ago.

The Durham Lions, teaching assistants braced for a fifth strike day on Thursday, shame a Labour county council that’s lost its political compass.

Demanding the 2,700 grafters, lowly paid and mainly women, swallow pay cuts of up to 23% is indecent and deserving of the mother of all backlashes.

I spoke to three fearful teaching assistants, doing publicly unheralded fantastic work in Consett schools. 

Their plights are heartbreaking. Rachel Crowe, 41, is worried her three kids will go without and she’ll be forced to find another job if her pay’s cut £328.03 a month from £1,627.23 to £1,299.20. 

“Without sounding cheesy I do love the job but they’re going to put my own children on the poverty line,” Rachel told me. 

“I’m not going to let that happen.

“My option is to get a second job on an evening, and I don’t want to leave them at home alone, or be forced to find a new job.

“Why are they doing this to us?” 

Lindsay Temple, 50, calculated she’ll lose £4,500 a year should her £19,500 salary be chopped to £15,000. 

“This job isn’t filling the paint pots and recording TV programmes,” she explained. 

“We do everything from actually teaching to social work, making sure children are at school and looked after, and dealing with some major issues about safety.

“I thought I’d retire doing the job.

"Now I’m looking around. You have to.” 

Kate Wales, 40, works four days a week and would be £3,400 worse off if her annual £16,000’s reduced. 

“We really feel undervalued.

“I love my job too, I still like my job, but I mightn’t be able to afford doing it,” she disclosed. 

“What makes us angrier is the people doing this to us have no idea what we do in schools.”

Their fightback is uplifting and a glorious spirit of resistance. 

Unison’s leader Dave Prentis takes pride in his Durham Lions and enjoyed the rare honour for a union general secretary of hearing his name chanted at a rally. 

Durham’s political big wigs justify the grubby grab to – get this – avoid equal pay claims from women on even lower earnings. 

The world’s turned upside down when laws passed to raise wages are cited to impose savage cuts. 

Rachel showed me her scribbled calculations estimating she’ll be £225 a month short after tax.

“That’s my council tax, gas and electric, car insurance and the kids’ dinner money – all bills I won’t be able to pay in the future,” she fretted.

Lindsay complained: “I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.

“I don’t have a big car... I’ll go home and have a good cry about what’s happening.”

Kate confessed: “With the worry I’ve given up a dress size since this happened. 

“People are off work with stress and the strain’s really beginning to tell.” 

Why is this happening to dedicated workers in 21st century Britain? 

Derby teaching assistants are in the same boat.

If it isn’t illegal, it should be.

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