Unite says students as well as teachers vulnerable to ‘network of exploitation’
January 25th: Unite, which organises English Language Teachers, is taking its ‘campaign for decency’ in the sector to ELT students’ countries of origin. The union, which has been pressing for minimum employment standards in a sector characterised by high levels of precarious work and low pay, said today that students as well as teachers are vulnerable to what Regional Organiser Roy Hassey dubbed a ‘network of exploitation’.
“Our members are focused not only on improving their own terms and conditions, but also on ensuring that Ireland’s English Language Teaching sector provides a quality service.
“Students can be charged up to €4500 for a six-month course delivered by poorly-paid teachers on precarious contracts in a building with insufficient sanitary facilities or access to drinking water. At the same time, as exposed by Prime Time Investigates last year, some of the agencies recruiting students also act as accommodation brokers, placing students in over-crowded, over-priced and substandard accommodation.
“Unite is engaging with the embassies of ELT students’ countries of origin, as well as the media in those countries, to ensure that prospective students have the information they need to make an informed choice, and to highlight the need for them to investigate agencies and schools before making what can be a very expensive commitment.
“Unite’s foreign information campaign kicked off last week with a meeting with the Swiss Ambassador and a meeting with the Spanish embassy is planned. We are also now seeking to engage with the embassies of Brazil and China, two of the main countries sending ELT students to Ireland.
“A high-quality, standards-centred ELT sector providing quality jobs for teachers and quality training for students has the potential to have a positive economic impact at home as well as enhancing Ireland’s reputation abroad. That is why Unite is campaigning for minimum employment standards, as well as education standards, to be included in the forthcoming Qualification and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill.
“Students paying thousands of Euro to learn English have the right to demand that they be taught in high-quality facilities by well-paid teachers on permanent contracts who themselves have a stake in the sector”, Mr Hassey concluded.
I agree with many of the points made in this article. However, I would disagree with the specific point that the ELT sector is characterized by “high levels of precarious work”. Rather, as also stated in your article, it is characterized by precarious contracts.
In my experience, there is a high turnover of teachers but this is not because their contracts have run their course. It is because these teachers generally choose to leave their employment after relatively short periods of time (this is certainly the case in the school where I currently work).
Is it right to have precarious contracts? Well the ELT sector has an unstable demand – the demand, for example, is characterized by seasonal fluctuation. Surely an employer should not be obliged to employ a person whose services they will not require for several months of the year.
Again, I would like to emphasize that I agree with almost all the other points in this article.