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5 May 2021

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Beal High School strike against punitive sick policy resumes

Picket line at Beal academy. Photo: Glenn Kelly

Picket line at Beal academy. Photo: Glenn Kelly   (Click to enlarge)

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.

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Article dated 5 May 2021

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RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June, photo by G Freeman

RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June. Photo G Freeman

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