ONE of the longest and most bitterly fought union actions of recent times came to a close on Monday after Durham teaching assistants voted to end a two-year dispute over pay and contracts.

Was it worth all of the pain, worry and lost wages? Only the TAs and council chiefs can properly answer that question.

One thing is certain is that this has been a remarkable campaign. It is almost unheard nowadays for industrial disputes to run for so long and it is testament to the TAs’ stubbornness and organisational skills that it did.

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Their determination to fight for what they felt was right captured the public imagination. The campaign stirred memories of actions such as the Grunwick and Ford sewing machinists disputes as a protest led by low-paid female workers.

The latter dispute became the subject of the film Made in Dagenham and a movie mogul somewhere may well regard the Durham classroom workers’ story as ripe for similar treatment in years to come.

To portray this as a David versus Goliath tale in which downtrodden workers took on uncaring council bosses might suit Hollywood, but it would be unfair to ignore efforts made by the council to try to resolve the row.

It would also be a mistake to forget that the Government’s savage austerity policy lies at the heart of this and other disputes over cuts to local services.

As with most industrial rows, neither party will emerge feeling victorious. Throughout the dispute, the TAs campaigned under the slogan “Value Us”. They may not have achieved all of their aims but they can feel content that they reminded the wider community about the valuable role they play helping the next generation to achieve their potential. We value them.