SOMETHING rather remarkable has been going on in our region over the last two years.

Industrial disputes of any consequence are largely a thing of the past. Changes in legislation have made it tough for unions to take action.

Fewer employees have the stomach to fight for their rights and union membership has dwindled over the last 30 years as hotbeds of industrial action, such as heavy industry and manufacturing, died out and the rise of the gig economy created swathes of workers who are effectively self-employed.

All of which makes the campaign by Durham teaching assistants (TAs) such a notable event.

Both the workers, who campaigned doggedly to protect terms and conditions, and the council, which battled to balance budgets amid Government cuts, can argue they did what was right in the circumstances. The Echo has tried to remain fair and balanced in its reporting of the dispute and given both sides a chance to explain their side of the story.

It is hard not to admire the determination of the women who led the campaign and stuck to their guns. We also accept that the local authority was under pressure to balance the books and as other vital services fell victim to austerity it would have been surprising if teaching assistants remained immune.

In an ideal world the TAs would have emerged with a deal which made them all feel valued but in the real world compromises are made no matter how hard they might be to swallow.

Whether you supported the industrial action or not the campaign was successful in reminding the public that TAs are a crucial part of schools. They may not have secured the financial deal they craved but they won something priceless - respect.