It can be hugely frustrating reading the news lately. So much backwardness coming from the USA, rumblings of nuclear threats, frighteningly random terrorist attacks in European cities, the horrific situation for millions living in the Middle East, and closer to home, the dire situation for so many people living at and under the poverty line.
It is easier to turn to lighter news and frivolities to escape the unending bad news that we are exposed to every day because too much can contribute to poor mental health and anxiety, in part caused by a sense of helplessness. What can one person really do? Small actions in the face of larger systemic domination can feel inadequate. But just thinking about getting involved is never going to be enough to effect real change, and if you find yourself in the position where you are able to take some concrete actions, we ask you to please read on.
This is an opportune time for the English language teaching sector. The government is working on a bill (Summary of Bill) that will affect our working lives. So much about the industry has been out of sight of the public, the press and the government, allowing employment abuses to increase exponentially every year. It is reassuring that regulation is coming. But this regulation must be looked at carefully. Will it serve the best interests of the teachers, or will it be tailored to the business interests of the staggeringly profitable language schools and their organisation Marketing English in Ireland? In a recent press release, it has been shown that the industry “is built on poverty pay”. Why, therefore, would any English language teacher reasonably assume that MEI have teachers’ best interests at heart in the formation of this bill? Teachers and their elected representatives must be allowed to be involved in this legislative process.
The English language teachers who are a member of the Unite ELT branch recently voted to send out the following text to members of the Education Committee who will decide the changes that need to be made to the bill. This bill is an opportunity to put some of the changes we need in the industry into protective legal terms.
So, what can you do at this watershed moment? Set aside 10 minutes of your day today towards positive activism. The submission period for these letters is not infinite, so avoid procrastinating and follow these simple steps:
- Copy and paste this text into your email account
- Read through it all. Add whatever information you want, take out anything you don’t want
- Why is it important to you that legal changes are made to the ELT industry in Ireland? If you want, include your thoughts
- Include previous experiences you have had in ELT, positive or negative. Make comparisons with other industries. Give anecdotes. These people are your elected representatives. It is their job to set policies and make laws. Laws that affect you at 4 o’clock on a Friday evening when you’re told you’ve no more work on Monday, or at 8pm when you’re at home trying to use the error correction code to correct 25 pieces of writing homework, and wondering why you aren’t paid to do this in a properly resourced staff room. Let them know what it is really like
- Remember: the most important thing is to request the committee to hold public hearings.
- When you’re happy with it, email it to these TDs on the Education Committee:
(Joan Burton TD, Thomas Byrne TD, Catherine Martin TD, Carol Nolan TD, Fiona O’Loughlin TD, Senator Maria Byrne, Senator Robbie Gallagher, Senator Trevor O’Clochartaigh, Senator Lynn Ruane)
- You can also CC the following with each email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Alan.Guidon@oireachtas.ie
- Send the email
- Ask your friends, family and colleagues to help you: send them the link to this post
- If you are motivated enough, use some of the text to write to your TDs about this issue. The more questions that TDs get about English language teacher’s rights, the better visibility for all of us
- Use https://www.whoismytd.com/ if you are not sure, and send that email
- Congratulations! You have taken a concrete activist step
- There is one last bullet point. Click on over on the Unite the Union Join page, and become a member today. You can come to the meetings, vote, discuss issues and put forward motions. This is real, effective activism, proven over centuries. You are working to improve the employment conditions of a woefully unregulated sector. That is something to be proud of.
TEXT OF THE LETTER TO BE SENT TO THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE
TD or Senator Name
Joint Committee on Education & Skills
Houses of the Oireachtas
29th August 2017
Re: Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill
Dear Ms ,
I am an English Language teacher at a private English language school in Dublin.
It is my understanding that the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill will be brought before the Joint Committee on Education & Skills in the near future.
The bill will include a section on the formation of the International Education Mark (IEM) which will establish the formal regulatory process for English language schools.
I have concerns about the content of the bill and in particular what I consider to be the inadequate regulation proposed within the bill.
The English Language sector is a hugely profitable business worth over one billion Euros to the economy annually. Given international developments with the Brexit vote, this figure is certain to rise over the next few years as more and more international students see Ireland as the premier location in which to learn English.
Some of the issues which have affected my colleagues and I as teachers include: overuse and abuse of fixed term contracts; use of zero hour contracts; use of bogus self-employment; failure to supply teachers with proper, legal contracts; failure to pay statutory holiday pay; failure to pay sick pay; a failure to award full entitlement to all leave as guaranteed under employment legislation; discrimination in pay between native born speakers and non-native English speakers; a serious deficit in resources and facilities for teachers and students alike.
Whilst it appears that the proposed International Education Mark (IEM) will go some way towards regulating the ownership and administration of schools, it is my understanding that the bill as currently drafted does not regulate for employment conditions for teachers and other administration staff in the sector.
I feel very strongly that this bill presents the opportunity to address long standing bad employment practices in the ELT sector by provision for a Fair Employment Mark, guaranteeing that schools awarded such a mark offer decent terms and conditions to teachers and other ELT staff. Whilst some of the issues mentioned above openly contravene employment legislation, many of the poor practices in the sector are not illegal under current legislation, and cannot be addressed using the industrial relations mechanisms of the state.
Therefore, in order to ensure best practice and maintain the international reputation of our English language schools, I feel that every opportunity should be taken through the legislation to ensure Ireland becomes a world leader in teaching English as a foreign language. This can only be achieved by legislating for basic employment standards in schools.
The ELT sector cannot flourish in a situation where employment rights are not addressed at a macro level, and where schools can continue to regard employment rights as an optional extra.
Therefore I request that, once the bill comes before your committee, formal public hearings are held into the merits of the bill and your committee takes submissions from interested parties. Given the importance of the ELT sector to the Irish economy it is crucial that this bill is afforded the utmost scrutiny and that all interested parties are heard. By holding public hearings and taking submissions, your committee will uphold its role of rigorous oversight.
I would be happy to elaborate in my concerns should you require further information. However I would reiterate our belief that public scrutiny of the bill is crucial and that it is in the best interests of all involved in the ELT sector for your committee to agree to hold public hearings and accept submissions.
I look forward to a positive response to this request.