Unite English Language Teachers to protest the early and unsafe re-opening of the English Language Education sector.
When: Monday, July 19th 1pm
Where: Department of Further and Higher Education, Malborough Street, Dublin 1
Unite’s English Language Teachers’ branch last night [July 14th] voted to call a march of teachers and students to protest the Department’s plans to re-open English language schools on Monday July 19th – with less than one week’s notice to students and teachers.
Richie Browne, Regional Coordinating Officer for Unite explained the concerns of his union’s membership among English language teachers:
“Our members employed in the English-language teaching sector have numerous concerns about this decision by the Department; one of the main ones being that most teachers and their students are in younger age groups and are still unvaccinated. These concerns were raised with the government’s working group, of which Unite English Language Teachers’ branch is a member, but they don’t appear to have been taken into account in any way. “The decision of the Department’s COVID-19 Working Group to suddenly reopen the English Language Education industry will give free rein to the predominant, large school owners whose response during Covid was completely inadequate. They sought to write ‘self-regulating’ codes and ignored calls for sick pay, elected staff representation, and safe external reporting mechanisms for non-compliance with safety protocols”, Mr Browne said.
Unite is asking teachers and supporters to assemble at the Spire at 12:30 and march to the Department of Education. The timing of the protest march is set to coincide with the day when the Department is permitting school owners to re-open Ireland’s English Language Education sector for face-to-face classes.
On Tuesday, October 27th, 2020, at 7pm Irish time, the ELT Branch will present the third annual ‘Stephen Cullen Memorial Lecture’ via Zoom. We are delighted to announce some very special guests for this years event. One of ELT’s most renowned and respected teacher trainers and authors, Hugh Dellar, will be speaking and answering questions. He will be joined by former teacher turned novelist, Naoise Dolan. Her debut novel, ‘Exciting Times’ has been critically acclaimed on both sides of the Irish sea and we will hopefully get an insight into her inspiration for the main character’s struggles in the realms of the ELT industry.
Accompanying them ( …and us!) is internationally acclaimed Irish folk singer, Niamh Parsons, to add touches of particularly distinctive vocal class to this year’s proceedings. There will be several spot prizes to be won on the night as well.
Attendance is only possible by invitation which all members will receive this week, beginning October, 20th. Only those who RSVP will have access to this years event. Please contact us via email for enquiries. We hope you will join us for what promises to be and exciting and engaging evening as the world of ELT comes to terms with the turmoil of 2020 and beyond. Don’t forget to RSVP for the ZOOM link! We are very much looking forward to seeing and hearing from you on this very special occassion. Until then…
Above: Day 156 on the picket line. Members of the ELT branch, Rachel Kavanagh (far left); Branch Chairman, Ciaran Gallagher; Branch Treasurer, John Whipple and Margaret Gillan (far right), visit striking Mandate members at the Debenhams picket line in Parnell Street, Dublin last week.
Last Thursday, Sept. 10th, members of the Unite ELT Branch and Committee visited the Debenhams store picket line to hand over a letter of support to our comrades. Having made a donation from our branch the previous week, we arranged to follow up by handing over a signed letter of solidarity and support to the inspirational strikers on the Parnell Street goods entrance to the store.
The strikers spirits were high and we were given a warm welcome by the striking Mandate members who at the time were approaching a remarkable 160 days on the picket lines at all Debenhams stores around Ireland.
The determined Debenhams staff are seeking 4 weeks (”2 +2″ ) pay per year worked in their redundancy settlement negotiations with liquidator KPMG. The total amount offered by KPMG on behalf of the retailer was a paltry €1 million, which is nowhere near the €13 million workers say is due to them in a previous collective agreement with management. Workers claim the company, which still has over 120 UK stores in operation and an estimated €95 million in cash reserves, can well afford to keep their word and stick to the collective agreement.
Some of the staff we met had been employed for over 20 years and were resolute in their intentions to maintain the blockade on the various Irish stores countrywide to prevent the company removing the stock, that they estimate to be worth at least €15 million in the Henry Street store alone.
It should be noted that if companies such as Debenhams can get away without having to honour their full redundancy obligations to staff in Ireland the statutory redundancy bill falls in the government’s lap. That means companies like Debenhams can rob their workers of their hard-earned entitlements after years and, in some cases, decades of loyal service and leave the Irish exchequer to pick up the tab. It’s an absolute scandal and you can only admire the courage and steely determination of the strikers to stand up to the bosses and KPMG. Just a couple of days prior to our visit, KPMG had actually withdrawn the derisory €1m. offer from the negotiating table.
The valiant Debenhams strikers have now spent a whopping 163 days on the picket lines which is the longest running strike/picket in the history of the Irish state.
This second survey by Unite ELT finds 149 English Language Teachers in Ireland believe that living and teaching through the Covid-19 Pandemic has not just been stressful and costly and damaging. Uniquely government has excluded the entire teaching body stakeholder group from all talks to relieve or improve their conditions or discuss conditions for safe return.
Teachers indicate situation may have been less damaging if managers and owners had communicated with them more regularly or would begin to do so. For example, teachers were not informed by their schools of a publicly funded state-chaired Working Group on the English Language Education sector established just after the restrictions for the sector had been officially extended to cover the ELE sector. Nor were teachers informed of their rights while working from home, with exceptions in only a few cases across the 149 teachers responding. Most report having received fewer than 3 emails over the course of the entire pandemic.
In tandem government’s ongoing unilateral policy of exclusion from the ELE Sector Working Group discussions of people who work for wages the English Language Education (ELE) sector is seen as something that is against their interests.
Added to these areas, was a question about physical health. As workers COVID Ireland this question is more necessary because workers in Irish ELE, just as in other sectors, are faced with a de facto imposition further precarity by government choices to priortise or, in the case of the ELE sector, to exclusively engage in owner-focussed policies, talks, and practice. These exclusionary choices are at the expense of working precarious teachers and predicated on the exclusion of all employees and working people in the sector, unionised or otherwise.
There is also an extensive section detailing ELE operators transition to and practice of operating online teaching with government consent and mandate.
These findings may be a valuable resource for students and student-side stakeholders who are seeking evidence or looking for a view from inside the online classrooms giving vital context for the relative inaction of Irish quality bodies and government departmental policies.
These policies and procedures allowed for-profit schools a free hand with the setting, measurement, recording and enforcement of standards regarding level of student service, refund policies and quality provision.
This may be especially important to stakeholders who are excluded because of the absence of public records of the exclusionary state-chaired ELE Working Group’s decisions regarding the English Language Education sector in Ireland at the time this article and this report are released.
It is recommended that the government’s ELE sector Working Group include teacher representatives as soon as possible.
BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY
Unite ELT Branch commissioned this second survey in May 2020 at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ireland.
The survey was open for approximately one month 2/6/2020-3/7/2020. It was emailed to all Unite ELT members and publicised on various ELT channels. Participants were encouraged to share the survey with members and non-members alike to get the largest available sample.
The results of that survey indicated three areas for further research. Questions for all respondents focussed on four themes:
Communications during COVID-19;
In total there were 149 valid responses out of 153 responses. Approximately 78 participants accessed a Teaching Online section which was written with the input of a large number of members. These questions were accessible through a branching structure which revealed an extensive set of questions on their experience of Teaching Online.
Below is are the graphs representing the information in the responses to the survey.
For further comment or analysis see the full report.
Unite ELT Branch supports the strike action UPE (Union of Professional Educators) Malta are currently undertaking in protest at their hostile employer Club Class. Communications with Club Class broke down during the pandemic after UPE made numerous attempts to engage with management only to be ignored time and again in recent weeks. The strike began on Monday July, 6th and will continue indefinitely. The strike has garnered much media attention in Malta already and we would encourage our members to show their support by engaging with the strikers on social media and sending further messages of support over the coming days and weeks. Identical to the Irish government’s Covid-19 Working Group for ELE, the Maltese government’s ‘think tank’ for the English language sector has excluded workers representatives and unions from participating or contributing in the most undemocratic and ignorant way. Our branch, along with the TEFL Workers Union in London, has sent donations to the workers this week in solidarity with our colleagues and will continue to show support for the duration of their strike action. Feel free to click on the links below for further details.
PURPOSE This survey seeks to learn about the experiences of English Language Teachers who were affected in their work in the Irish English Language Education sector because of restrictions placed on schools by the Department of Education and Skills.
PARTICPANTS The survey is open to all English Language Teachers working in Ireland currently and/or at the time of the beginning of restrictions 13 March 2020.
This survey is for all English Language Teachers including those who:
teach online for their school,
have taught for a short time,
have begun to teach more recently and/or
have never taught for their school online.
FORMAT All 15 required initial questions are multiple choice or checkbox. They are grouped into three sections. This section takes approximately 4 minutes.
If you have taught online you can access a final 20 optional follow-on questions regarding your experience of Teaching Online. These are grouped in 7 sections. The Teaching Online section takes approximately 6 minutes.
-You may review all your answers at the end of this survey before submitting. -You may request a copy of the report sent to you by email. -You can exit the survey at any time and your responses will not be submitted unless you click submit.
DATA -A sub-committee of members of the Unite ELT Branch will process the data participants voluntarily submit. -All data remains anonymous. -The survey will not request names or specific workplaces. -Emails will only be required if a copy of the results as requested by the participant. -Your personal data cannot be shared without your consent.
DATA COLLECTION AND PRESENTATION This survey will remain open for one month. Publication of data will happen as soon as possible after the survey closes.
2015 was when the College Closure Crisis was at its height. At this point, 11 ELT schools had closed in Dublin alone.
Two more schools were crumbling in April 2015. Linked by ownership, MEC and NCBA had issued IOUs instead of pay at the end of April.
Teachers stopped working and students protested in support. Students formed MEC Student Union and on Tuesday, 5th May 2015, they marched from the Oscar Wilde statue to the QQI headquarters on Denzille Lane, to the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the quays, and to the Dáil, winning national media attention for their demand that the Minister for Education #RegulateNow.
An organiser from Unite observed the march that day. Impressed, he joined us.
He helped us go on to build this Ireland-wide ELT branch and become a part of the Joint Labour Committee talks happening this year to finally regulate for better employment in our sector.
Following two extensive branch meetings and further consultation with our members, we wish to convey the following.
The Unite ELT branch states that:
Schools must communicate clearly and immediately with teachers in writing about their employment situation and pay. Teachers must also be given weekly updates in writing on this matter. Teachers must not be forced to take their holidays to cover the closure period.
Teachers are under no obligation to teach online. However, if they choose to do so, all training, preparation and correction time for online teaching must be paid at the normal contracted rate.
All necessary equipment and support for teaching must be provided by the schools. Class duration and size must be reduced as appropriate for online teaching. Employees must continue to be paid at their average weekly wage, even if online teaching is not available or they are unable to do it.
Rent and mortgage payments must be waived for the duration of the crisis and there must be a guarantee of no evictions. There should be no accrued debt as a result of this waiver.
Employers must negotiate with the union immediately in order to achieve the best outcomes for workers, students, public health and their businesses.
We also wish to extend our deepest solidarity to all other branches and workers. Please get in touch if you require our help.
ELT Unite is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Branch Member Motions Time: Mar 19, 2020 15:00 – 16:00 PM
Please check your spam filters for an email from the branch. We will be discussing a document included. In addition, please bring your proposals, known as motions, to the meeting for consideration and approval by the branch.
Hello to all members and non-members. Our schools have been forced to close, take classes online or perhaps, in some circumstances, keep going on a skeleton basis. The issue is that we need to gather information and establish courses of action.
Our branch is volunteer run and is always looking for new members to help. We will be holding remote meetings for members so please click here to join if you wish to participate.
Further information on schools, Unite and Government responses can be found in here in the information section of the site.
From 6pm, 12 March 2020, all schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close. Pupils should take their books and learning materials home with them this evening. While children are at home, they should practice social distancing such as minimising social contact, avoiding meeting up and keeping physical space between them and other people.
All members who have been laid off temporarily are advised to go to their local social welfare office and sign on immediately. If you need help with this please get in touch with us. If you have documentation from your employer please take that with you too, in order to ease the processing of your claim. You are not obliged to use your holiday leave, you should be paid either by the school or the state.
Citizens Information have further information if you follow this link.
Don’t forget that during all this it is important to look after fellow teachers and we never stop our ongoing campaigns.
Since 2018 our members have tried to engage with Delfin with regard to their terms and conditions of employment and they have genuine concerns. They just want somebody to go in with a professional face on and be able to put forward their claims and what they feel is justifiable for their hours and their holidays.
Get paid for doing work they don’t get paid for at the moment. It’s as simple as that.
The sector is precarious. The students have certain guarantees if one of the schools or colleges goes bankrupt. Those students will transfer to to other schools. But there’s no certainty for our members in regard to their terms and conditions and what contracts they have. The company can employ people and let people go at short notice.
dispute escalates, English Language Teachers strike!
stoppage follows management’s refusal of collective bargaining.
Trade union Unite, which represents all teachers working in Delfin English School, will picket the school Delfin Dublin from 09.00 hrs to 18.00 hrs October 7th. The escalation of this dispute follows repeated attempts by Unite to engage with management in a bid to address workers’ concerns.
“Management has consistently refused to address teachers’ concerns or to negotiate with them collectively through the union of their choice, leaving workers with no option but to take industrial action said Unite Regional Officer Brendan Byrne, further stating that
“Our members have been trying to address a range of issues from low pay to unpaid breaks and what amount to temporary lay-offs over Christmas.
“The resolution of this dispute is in the hands of management: they just need to pick up the phone and talk to their workers through their union, Unite.
“This is the first strike action in a sector where precarious working conditions are the norm. Unless schools move to engage with workers collectively, it is unlikely that tomorrow’s action will be the last in the sector”, Mr Byrne warned.
On Monday morning a strike for dignity, respect and workplace democracy occurs. Please offer whatever support you feel appropriate during the work stoppage. If you have an afternoon class and can spare an hour to stand beside your fellow teacher then please do. If not, then find out about the work stoppage through the following information and share it with your fellow workers, family and friends. Only with our combined effort and support can we achieve our goals.
Good Luck and Solidarity!
ELT Unite Branch
Industrial action at prominent school set for Monday [September 23rd] in dispute over pay and conditions in a sector notorious for its precarious work practices
Delfin Language School based on Parnell Square, has refused to recognise and negotiate with representatives of Unite the Union, the union that represents the English Language teachers. Unite Regional Officer Brendan Byrne explained the reasons for the dispute between the workforce and management.
“The workers have been left with no alternative but to take industrial action as a result of the approach taken by management. They have totally failed to address the concerns of the workforce in relation to three main areas of contention: the need for pay to reflect the increased cost of living, the volume of unpaid work done by English Language Teachers on a daily basis, and the fact that teachers are left with no choice but to sign on for social welfare payments over the Christmas period.
“The workforce has attempted continuously to engage with management through Unite’s best offices. Unfortunately management has adopted an approach of refusing to recognise or negotiate with ourselves.
“From speaking to the workers, the overall feeling is one of regret that things have come to this point. The teachers want to do their jobs but working conditions in the sector are just unacceptable. Management’s consistent refusal to engage collectively with workers through their trade union, Unite, has left the workers with no option but to take action. The workers have decided to restrict their initial action to only a three hour stoppage – hopefully this will act as a catalyst for management to adopt a more conciliatory approach”, Mr Byrne said.
Next Mon 23rd Sept will see the first Unite picket on a language school in Ireland. Delfin Teachers have been refused collective bargaining rights and are exercising their right to take strike action.Please RT and ask @Delfinschool to respect their teachers & recognise the union.
Students and teachers all over the world are joining again together to fight the existential threat that faces us. The ELT unite branch would like to kindly facilitate you in teaching your students with our free lesson plan.
Follow us on Instagram @eltunite and perhaps we can protest together at an event near each other. This is one of the Dublin events but other events near you can be located on the Global Climate Strike website.
After months of successful engagement with our branch we thank Mr. Patrick King for his careful and concise report on the sector. It is rare to have a document which encapsulates the reasons for our existence as a motivating and organising force in the sector.
Welcome to the official home of the English Language Teachers branch of Unite. We hope that any information you need about the sector can be found here. If you can’t find what you’re looking for please get in touch and we’ll be happy to find the relevant information and add it to the website.