Three unions on strike at Halley Academy over plans to sack 80% of support staff

Members of three unions are today on strike at Halley Academy in Greenwich.
In January 2019 Halley Academy, part of Leigh Academy Trust (LAT), announced plans to make 19 out of 24 support staff redundant to save £600k due to increased costs and falling pupil numbers.
LAT then emailed staff instructing them to clear desks and return school property by Friday 5 April. Staff were told they were to be put on ‘gardening leave’ and not to return after the Easter holiday.
The workers – members of GMB, NEU and UNISON – will demonstrate at LAT headquarters in Strood after picketing outside the school in the morning. The school is likely to be closed for the day. UNISON and GMB previously took one day of strike action over the issue on 25 April.
UNISON Greater London regional secretary Maggi Ferncombe said: “The scale of cuts to support staff are breathtaking and will have a terrible impact on children’s education.
“UNISON will continue to meet with LAT and seek a resolution to this dispute in good faith. It’s not too late for the school to see sense and reverse these damaging cuts
“However, after unexpectedly informing staff by email that they would be put on gardening leave, the employer has a long way to go to rebuild trust. Unless we see improvements soon, it will be hard to avoid continuing and escalating industrial action.”
Clara Mason, schools convenor for Greenwich UNISON, said: “LAT’s complete lack of care for its staff, pupils and parents leaves UNISON with no alternative but to continue coordinated strike action. LAT should return to the negotiating table and work with unions to protect staff and Halley Academy’s future.”

GMB Greenwich branch assistant secretary Donna Spicer said: “Nineteen support staff are being made redundant under the guise of ‘not enough funding’ yet Simon Beamish the CEO of Leigh Academy Trust is on a £230k salary.

“The support staff at Halley Academy are hard-working, caring, low paid workers in their role to support children with emotional and behavioural needs. Helping them access a good education while supporting them with their daily struggle.  What does the CEO do?  Sits in an office behind a desk shuffling papers. This is what academisation does. The GMB are here today to support the staff and say “We will not allow you to destroy the education of pupils in need and the lives of support staff who work incredibly hard.”

GMB regional organiser Clive Smith said: “GMB’s video from the picket line has been viewed 12,000 time on social media platforms, and been shared almost 200 times. This is not due to the members alone, this is because students, former students, parents of students and others in the local community can recognise the vital work that our members are doing on a daily basis.

“Incredibly Leigh Academy Trust have come to the conclusion that paying Chief Executive Simon Beamish £230k is necessary, yet 19 front line staff working and supporting the pupils directly are dispensable. This is the shabby economics of the Academy system.

“The direct funding of education should not be siphoned into high executive pay but should go into directly supporting our future generations. The GMB union and GMB members will not sit by and let this disgrace slip through quietly.

“There is still time to reverse this decision and we are calling on Leigh Trust to do just that and protect the future of special needs provision at Halley.”

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