Crunch meeting fails to provide breakthrough in school sick pay dispute

Ongoing strike at high school in Redbridge

Talks between a union and the trust that runs Beal High School in Redbridge over a sick pay dispute made no breakthrough. - Credit: Glenn Kelly

Crunch talks between a union and the trust that runs Beal High School in Redbridge over a sick pay wrangle came to nothing. 

Striking staff have been locked in a dispute with the Beacon Academy Trust for months over issues surrounding sick pay and policy.

A lack of breakthrough in talks has led to strikes taking place on March 25, April 28/29, and May 4/5 respectively. 

The National Education Union (NEU) alleges that staff employed after 2016 receive different - and inferior - sick pay compared to those employed before that year. 

Strike at high school in Redbridge

Languages teacher Sylvain Savier is the school's co-NEU rep alongside law and history teacher Sajia Iqbal. - Credit: Glenn Kelly

It also claims staff who are unwell are subject to capability assessments, meaning questions are asked of their ability to teach.

The trust has insisted throughout that there is one sickness pay policy for all staff.

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The second allegation, made to the Recorder at the second day of industrial action on April 28, was denied by trust CEO Kathryn Burns: "The trust takes staff welfare extremely seriously.

"It adopts a compassionate approach to supporting staff sickness absence and its current policies were approved by recognised unions (including the NEU) following full consultation. 

Strike at high school in Redbridge

The strike on Tuesday (May 4) was the fourth day of action following strikes on March 25, April 28 and 29 respectively. A further day of industrial action was due to take place this morning (Wednesday, May 5). - Credit: Glenn Kelly

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"The trust does not recognise the picture of its approach to HR matters which is being painted/endorsed by current NEU officials. The allegation that ill staff are automatically subject to assessments of capability is not true."

On this second day it was confirmed that a meeting was due to take place between the parties on April 30. 

NEU regional officer Glenn Kelly said the two-hour meeting led to no offer from the trust, which asked staff to suspend the strike action pending a referral to dispute mediation body ACAS. 

An updated statement from the trust confirmed this suspension request - "in the spirit of good industrial relations" - and corroborated Mr Kelly's account which stated that union members voted against doing so.

It also reiterated staunch denials to each allegation made, both in respect of sick pay and with regards to assessments of capability.

The statement concluded: "We have committed to a fair and reasonable negotiation with the NEU using ACAS mediation. We are genuine in our commitment to reach resolution as soon as possible."

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