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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2021

Beal academy strikers demand equal sick pay

Picket line at Beal academy. Photo: Glenn Kelly

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

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.

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 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.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 31 March 2021:


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SPS Technologies workers strike against potential pay loss of 3,000 a year

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