Dublin teachers in limbo…

Grafton College, located in Portobello, is a member of Marketing English in Ireland and is recognised by ACELS as an accredited member. Staff did not receive their wages as expected on Friday and believe that the school is planning to close. 

We post this featured image because the Grafton College owner’s body MEI is on the lobbying register as having met Fine Gael’s Education Minister. So this image is dead right: Yes – politics matters in ELT.

The same Fine Gael Education Minister who met with MEI refused to speak with our union Unite the Union, Republic of Ireland. Why? When we have as many members as they do. We do have as much right to have our voices heard, and our faces seen, and our stories listened to.

Our viewpoint as citizens matters- so our access to and use of political power matters, too.

As the Grafton College closure unfolds (the 22nd of English Language Teaching organisation to snap close since 2014 in Ireland), we call on all teachers to strongly consider taking an individual or collective direct action through or outside your union to counteract the imbalance of influence the owners’ group MEI has been given by Fine Gael’s previous Education Minister.

The Minister had time for their union of owners, but no time for our union of teachers.

MEI is clearly not working for teachers’ interests. Look how their lobbying has left us! What do they have against English Language Teachers? ELT is not working for its teachers. But the Minister for Education was not working for teachers either! This was an EDUCATION Minister. Thankfully Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton is out of that ministry, but Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh is in. (@McHughJoeTD)

Unite, our union for ELT in Ireland, is still being kept out in the cold. Fine Gael is obviously a proud “Business Owners’ First” party. They don’t like talking to workers about their very REAL citizens’ issues with workplace bullying, precarity, low-pay, no sick pay, and still NO PROTECTIONS in SNAP CLOSURES.

Yes these problems seem pedestrian but they lead to permanent damage to our colleagues financially, socially, mentally and physically- and not just for the teachers. We are family members too. Many of us need to support parents, partners and kids.

MEI and the member owners – by deliberately excluding teachers’ needs and rights – are demonstrating that we are on our own in this profession. And we will obviously need to build and fight. They don’t want to have a ‘big tent’, they want to focus on the owners’ interests and only on business owners.

So if this isn’t the time to take direct actions to get our issues to the top of the agenda, now as the regulation for our sector is being debated in the Dáil, when is?

NOW very clearly is the time to get political.

  • Call those politicians. 
  • Organise a staff room letter to Joe McHugh the new Education Minister. 
  • Put on a fundraiser for the Grafton teachers and staff. 
  • Talk about the Grafton debacle teachers in your staff meeting. 
  • Invite one of their teachers to come and speak at your next teachers’ meeting.
  • Express your disapproval of MEI’s owners and customers ONLY policies in a letter to your DOS, to QQI, to ACELS, to ELT IRELAND, to IATEFL, to your local newspaper, to your school’s local city council.

WE MATTER if we are noticed, but we will be the only ones to act for us if we act quietly. I think we are all sick of moaning and whaddya gonna do? We actually don’t have time for that. ACT.

Quiet, credulous, and cooperative got us to Snap Closure 22 with no protections for teachers. So did clever and cynical and apathetic. IT. ISN’T. WORKING. For 23 of our colleagues it’s too late this December.

  • Join the union to be a part of the only voice for change we have in the sector, but do it actively. Don’t wait for Unite’s press release. What can you do this Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday the 3,4,5 of December? Organise an action in your staff room even it it’s as basic as 
  • a group letter or 
  • a single minute’s wildcat work stoppage or 
  • a discussion of what happened with your students or 
  • a collective motion to send a message of solidarity from your next teachers’ meeting to our colleagues in Grafton, you know – a card. (You can send it to them through us, or directly through Unite.)

If each of the remaining 58 ELT school teaching staffs took a single action this week, what would happen? MEI’s self-centred owners would be overwhelmed morally. The Department of Education would be forced to meet with us and we would have the full support of the Dáil for the protections we all need.

If we all act, we wouldn’t even need the Dáil.

So what can you do? You can join the union, yes. But to give that membership real power, what can you do?


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