Beal school strikers suspend action after possible victory

Beal High School workers, who have taken two rounds of strike action against a punitive, two-tier sick pay policy, are voting to suspend their current action after progress in negotiations.

Staff at Beal — England’s largest secondary with over 2,600 students — have been demanding: don’t punish the sick!

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union says: “We had been demanding that ill-health should be separated from the disciplinary process and the ending of a two-tier ill health policy. Looks like we have won on both demands.”

Beal High School strike against punitive sick policy resumes

6TH MAY 2021

by East London Socialist Party

Beal High School workers have walked out for a further five days against a punitive, two-tier sick pay policy. Dozens upon dozens of pickets at England’s largest secondary – with over 2,600 students – demand: don’t punish the sick! The National Education Union has more action planned if management won’t do the right thing.

Talks on Friday 30 April did not resolve the dispute. Had bosses been serious about negotiating, they would have called talks on the Monday, before the first two days of post-Easter action.

However, a meeting with 70 parents earlier in the week was more productive. They were angered that management had not warned them of the strike days or explained the issues properly.

Staff employed after 2016 are entitled to a fraction of the sick pay of other employees. The NEU members are also angry that, even when the school accepts they are genuinely sick, they can face disciplinary action or being treated as poor teachers.

The cost of resolving these injustices to this privately run ‘academy’ school is minimal. Informed parents have now sent the union’s side of things to hundreds of others.

As a result, many parents emailed the head. Chief executive Kathryn Burns responded by trying to push parents into individual discussions! These are the same isolating and intimidating tactics so many bosses try to use on staff.

The action has forced the school to begin a process of talks through mediation service Acas. But NEU regional officer Glenn Kelly says the union intends to keep the action on until there is a serious offer.

As we go to press, strikers are due to march from the school to the nearby office of Labour MP Wes Streeting, shadow education secretary.

His absence from the picket line so far is notable, but not surprising. School workers, parents and students after an electoral alternative that backs workers’ struggles should look to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Beal High school strike as management refuse to negotiate over fair sick pay scheme

1ST APRIL 2021

by James Ivens, East London Socialist Party

“What do we want? Justice! When do want it? Now!” Strikers at Beal High School in Redbridge, east London, are demanding an end to two-tier sick pay.

Picket line at Beal academy.
Photo: Glenn Kelly

Bosses at the privately run ‘academy’ give staff employed after 2016 a fraction of the nationally agreed sick leave.

Workers with serious conditions like Covid or cancer can even face disciplinaries.

It’s yet another attack on school conditions hidden in Tory and Blairite education ‘reforms’. Management has refused to discuss the injustice.

40 members of the school’s National Education Union (NEU) group picketed on Thursday 25 March. The action closed the school.

Spirits were high. As with so many school strikes, it gave overworked teachers and teaching assistants their first opportunity to discuss and socialise in a long time.

Management, however, did not share the strikers’ relief and confidence. They called the police down to patrol the picket line for PPE and social distancing.

School workers are already keenly aware of infection dangers due to their often overcrowded and poorly ventilated classrooms. Their picket line was perfectly safe. Meanwhile, school bosses stood glowering at the gates, without masks and not distancing.

Louise Caffaro, now elected to NEU
National Committee, speaks

Louise Cuffaro, secretary of neighbouring Newham NEU and a member of the Socialist Party, spoke at the strike rally to give solidarity. School workers in Newham have faced the same attack – academisation used to undermine national union agreements on pay and conditions.

Strikes in Newham defeated those attacks. In fact, because of Newham NEU’s recent record in leading industrial action, just winning the strike ballot was enough to force management back.

The national leadership of the NEU should learn from the anger and confidence of strikers in Newham and Redbridge. Louise and others are standing in the union’s national executive committee elections in April to bring that fighting experience and bold leadership.

Beal High school strike as management refuse to negotiate over fair sick pay scheme

26TH MARCH 2021

Beal High school in Redbridge east London faces a six-day shutdown just two weeks after reopening. Members of the National Education Union (NEU) have overwhelmingly voted to strike following the school’s refusal to renegotiate a fair sickness pay policy.

Unlike most of Redbridge schools, staff employed after 2016 at Beal High are not entitled to the nationally agreed sick pay scheme for teachers and support staff, and staff who are off sick (even if signed off by a doctor or hospital) are treated the same as workers facing disciplinary action.

Glenn Kelly, National Education Union (NEU) regional officer, said: “How can it be right that a teacher working alongside a colleague doing the same job is entitled to less sick pay? How can it be right that a worker unfortunate enough to become unwell can be treated like they are a bad teacher or one who has done something wrong?”

The first day of strike action is due to take place on the 25 March involving 146 teachers and support workers at the school.

Glenn added: “For three months we have been asking the school management to meet to try and negotiate a fair scheme, and for three months they have ignored us. It appears that they would rather that pupils and parents schooling is disrupted than try to resolve the situation.”

  • Thanks for voting for the following Socialist Party members standing in the NEU executive elections: Nicky Downes, Sean McCauley, Alex Moore, Sheila Caffrey and Louise Cuffaro. Alex Moore got enough votes to be elected, but missed out due to the gender balance rule. The other 4 were all elected!