From the first ELT picket in Ireland for 30 years*

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When we first started ELT Advocacy Ireland, we learned as much as we could about ELT labour history… and we only learned about one strike in Dublin -and it was in the 1980s. Since then, despite all the trouble of the College Closure Crisis from 2014-15, there had never been a picket on an English Language Teaching organisation.

23 September 2019 marked a change. That Monday, after months of attempts to talk with management formally and informally, after simple demonstrations of solidarity, and after letters and pre-notified one-hour stoppages the Delfin teachers did the most serious thing workers can do to support each other. They notified their colleagues and owner that they were going on a work stoppage to picket their own workplace to get what they need to make their work there safe and worthwhile again. Their demands as we saw in our last post remain: 1. formal recognition of their union 2. fair increase in pay in line with cost of living 3. an end to unpaid work and the dole at Christmas.

If you ever go on strike, we hope it’s with a crew that support each other like Delfin’s team do.

23 September 2019. The first Irish ELT work stoppage of this century.

Below is a comment we publish with permission from the writer, Trevor Coonan, a Delfin Teacher.

‘Excuse the haphazard selfie (below). It was another brilliant, energizing morning on our picket.

This picket is about union recognition (recommended in the [Patrick] King report), an end to unpaid work (8 hour day means 6 hours pay), unpaid prep time, a living wage, and essentially for the employers in this industry to grow up and stop acting like tefl teaching is just a summer thing, or what we do before my book is finished/ Hollywood comes calling/ I get a real job.

This job we do is a real job.

We create and foster value and help new members of our society to find their voice, feet and way.

There’s a lot of profit to be made and well-treated workers will put more bums on seats, increase the profits and make Ireland THE place to come for English and a great quality of life.
No one really says it, but I for one am sometimes apprehensive. It’s a daunting task.

We need your support.

Teachers, join a union. Mobilise. Fight for what you deserve. If we all stand together, who knows?

If you need better pay, conditions and maybe a bit of dignity, join us. Please. Dont wait for someone else.

Contact Unite and get in.’

30 September 2019. Trevor down in front with the fully committed the staff of Delfin Dublin on the picket where they are fully committed to a sustainable future for all of us in ELT in Ireland. #SupportDelfinTeachers

These teachers are doing historic work. They are making teaching English in Ireland a safer, more democratic, more inclusive profession. They are The Best Thing Happening In ELT In Ireland Today.

Here’s the thing: we have just learned that the next day of strike action has been announced. It’s another first: Full Day Strike. Get this message out and make an impact on the internet, but make sure you make some noticeable difference to these teachers: Post solidarity selfies; Talk about it in your staff room and school; Send donuts (Well done, JS & crew); Send a letter of support to Unite this today/tomorrow; Show up on…

Monday 7 October 2019 // 8am-6pm // Delfin Language School // 2 Parnell Sq East

Make a plan to be there for lunch too. Bring your bike or borrow one to beat traffic or sign up for DublinBikes just for this event. It matters. Let’s win this with them for all of us.

‘Picnic on the Picket!’ – committee member from the ELT Branch of Unite

Let’s #SupportDelfinTeachers in real ways. Join your union and be there on Monday.

[*Please note: There was a picket on MEC on Harcourt Street by MEC and NCBA staff on 16 April 2015 as a result of owner Tauseef Sarwar’s non-payment of wages. https://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0416/694544-colleges-international-students/

This led to student self organisation by Mexican and Brazilian students. MEC Student Union was formed when students learned that their tuition was not being used to pay salaries. The schools were the 14th and 15th schools to close overnight leaving students and teachers stranded.

MEC Student Union and ELT Advocacy Ireland organisers combined their efforts to organise the REGULATE NOW March which took place on 5 May 2015 finally pressuring government (Labour Ed. Min. Jan O’Sullivan) into action.

Thank you to DMcC for the reminder.]

2019 Resolutions for ELTs

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You’ve made it mid-way through January, congratulations! If you’ve made any resolutions, have you stayed with them? It’s possible that, like me, you’ve forgotten about your resolutions entirely, so here is a fun article to add more to your life.

Why bother with resolutions?

Excellent question. Today, January 21st, is dubbed ‘Blue Monday’ in order to give clickbait headlines a chance to shine in the dreary post-Christmas gloom of winter.

I hate maths. Photo credit.

According to The Telegraph, these confusing and horrible reminders of Leaving Cert Honours maths represent the following:

W = weather

D = debt

d = monthly salary

T = time since Christmas

Q = time since failing our new year’s resolutions

M = low motivational levels

Na = the feeling of a need to take action

I’m already feeling crap, do I have to do maths as well?

Yes, it’s marketing nonsense, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining and informative. Let’s look at this formula more closely to see how it applies to ELT in Ireland

Weather: Pah, as if anything can be done about the weather in this damp and marshy isle.

Debt: See next point

Monthly salary: Now this one is where we can help. For the last 3 years, there has been a concentrated effort by teachers, driven by Unite and supported by ELT Advocacy to improve working conditions for English language teachers in Ireland. Some remarkable events have transpired lately, including the appointment of a mediator by Mary Mitchell- O’Connor to discuss issues in the unregulated ELT sector. Mitchell- O’Connor stated:

My key objective is to ensure that Ireland has an English language sector that we can all have confidence in … Teachers and staff are a central element in ensuring the quality of that educational provision.

MerrionStreet.ie, 13th January, 2019

We are being acknowledged as actual stakeholders in our industry now! From the former education minister refusing to even acknowledge that we were teachers, to being a driving force for a mediation process in which school owners and teachers will finally be on a more equal footing. When one considers the history of ELT in Ireland, and the unchecked power of the language schools over teachers, this is a big, big win. Next stop – better wages?

Time since Christmas: Yes, it’s very sad, but there are Easter eggs in Tesco already.

Never resolve to give up on chocolate

Time since failing our New Year’s Resolutions: Fear not! As mentioned, this post will bestow 7 brand new resolutions on you, whither wanted or not, in a beautiful infographic format, to make it easier to remember.

Low motivational levels: This one can blight us all. What’s the point in trying to change things, it’s not going to improve, etc., etc. Well let’s look at the example of Grafton College in December. Teachers whose unpaid wages amounted to €75,000 were literally abandoned by the school owner and left unemployed just before Christmas in a city with one of the highest rents in the world in the middle of a seasonal dip in employment. We were furious. We protested. We made a huge noise. A fundraiser was set up, and we donated in droves. A fundraising quiz was organised by Unite which was well-attended and raised a lot of money. We wrote and shared articles, we urged our colleagues to get involved. And this did not go unnoticed. Unite’s stellar efforts in lobbying the Seanad over the last two years on the QQI legislation meant we had many allies who fought our case on the legislative floor – against the government who voted us down.

And it worked. The Grafton teachers, some of them new to campaigning, some of them not, were present in the public gallery when the bill passed by a single vote and moved on to the next stage of Oireachtas. That’s pretty fucking motivational, in my view. That a group of teachers can achieve actual legislative change to ensure that the industry stops treating its workers like disposable nothings.

It doesn’t take much to set things in motion

Last one- Need to take action: Well you know what you’ve got to do now, right? Start by looking at the resolution chart to see what you’ve done and where you need to begin. Join Unite here. Go to the branch meetings, vote on issues, bring forward motions, use your skills to enact change. Put in the work now to ensure you’re never in a situation like the Grafton College teachers, or like the other 20 plus schools that closed suddenly. It takes sustained political action to make our industry secure, decent and viable.

Have conversations in your staff room (if safe to do so), with other teachers, including newly-qualified teachers and teachers new to teaching in Ireland. Start taking detailed records of the work you’re doing outside the hourly wage that you’re paid. Admin work, planning, printing, researching – that is work, and if you’re not on a salary, you deserve to be paid for it. Is your school’s “admin rate” enough for the work you’re doing? Take notes, encourage other teachers to do the same. Go and read The Payment of Wages Act 1991. Be informed on your rights.

Get involved with ELT Advocacy – we’re always looking for people to get involved in the work we do supporting the branch. Writers, artists, advocates, people who get shit done – if that’s you, we want you.

My ELT resolutions

Print this off, put it somewhere you can see it regularly, and monitor your progress throughout the year. Apparently it takes only 21 days to make a new habit stick, so if you can keep up any of these resolutions until at least the 11th of February, you’ll be doing well. We’ll check back in then to see how things are going.

Don’t disappoint the beautiful infographic