A NEW “final offer” for County Durham teaching assistants embroiled in a long-running employment dispute is due to go before councillors next week.

The offer, which will be voted on by Durham County Council next week, includes new details of measures aimed at mitigating pay losses for 22 per cent of teaching assistants who will lose money if the proposed new contracts are implemented.

But questions have already been raised by teaching assistants who say the offer is not substantially different from one rejected by members of Unison in July.

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As part of the new offer, the council says it will establish a teaching assistant career progression board, as well as a training programme to support them in their roles and provide development for future opportunities.

If agreed, the implementation date would be January 2018, with a two year compensation period during which time no teaching assistant would lose any pay.

The new contracts would see teaching assistants work 37 hours a week and 40 weeks a year, with the majority receiving a pay rise, assuming annual one per cent increases, and a cut for 22 per cent.

The council hopes the new proposal will bring the two-year dispute to a close but members of grassroots group County Durham Teaching Assistants Activists’ Committee has raised concerns about the offer.

Member Megan Charlton said: “What’s different? There’s no detail. Until we see the detail of what the progression board will do and what there plans are to mitigate those losing after two years we can’t say it’s a good deal.

“They need to come up with concrete ways of mitigating the loss of 472 people and address the serious concerns we have over the grading structure which require the vast majority of teaching assistants to teach a whole class.”

Councillor Jane Brown, member for social inclusion, said: “We have continued to listen carefully and I am pleased to say we now have a proposal that gives a greater understanding of some of the issues raised during negotiations, and we now hope that this will bring an end to this dispute.

“By establishing a teaching assistant career progression board and a formal training programme to support our TAs into further career opportunities we believe we have done everything conceivably possible to provide on-going support.”

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, member for children and young people, said: “We believe this is a really positive outcome which offers all our teaching assistants the support and training they asked for to help them develop their careers.

The council says it needs to alter teaching assistants’ contracts because it is at risk of equal pay claims from other employees. It says it has now recieved more than 200 grievances.