Work Place Issues

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Joined: 8-06-15
Jun 8 2015 22:09
Work Place Issues

Hello I've just joined this forum and I wish I'd known about this earlier. I think its a really great thing.

I have been teaching EFL mostly in Asia since 2009. I started looking for work in Europe and the UK to spend more time with my family.

I have had some bad experiences but even that didn't prepare me for some of the shady practices I've encountered here in the UK.

My first summer work placement last year involved being made self employed and paid a fee for a residential two week course. Once on sight I was regularly working 15 hour days with no days off. As you can imagine being responsible for the care of minors it wasn't the sort of work I could just walk away from. To add insult to injury our washing was taken to launder and they lost all of my clothes along with the centre managers.

One of the teachers left and they asked me to cover his ours which I did but when I asked for extra pay I was refused. I tolerated these conditions as I was desperate for money and to remain in the Uk and I was afraid of not being paid at all.

I started work for a different company which although temporary seemed to be much better. I was recently sent to a different centre with this company and they have started to radically change teachers pay and working conditions. In my last role I was one of only two staff onsite running a residential language programme. We are currently in dispute with the management and asking for more pay as we worked beyond the scope of our contract. Again once on site we were dragged into a lot of management issues and were under resourced and unable to take sufficient rest. It was quite ironic that I didn't even have pens to teach with but no expense was spared for two managers to come and visit us from London to pacify us during the 3 weeks course.

I was planning on working for this company in the summer until I just read their new contracts. I'm now a teaching activity leader and expected to work more hours for less money.

I would be really interested to hear other peoples experiences.

boozemonarchy's picture
Joined: 28-12-06
Jun 9 2015 12:32

Hi clm78.

Not a TEFL worker or anything, but I do follow the Angry Language Brigade. They post up some great stuff that you'd probably be interested in. There are current and former TEFLers hanging around these parts.

Hieronymous's picture
Joined: 27-07-07
Jun 9 2015 17:47

Also, check out the industrial union of EFL/ESL and Adult Education language teachers in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria in British Columbia, Canada called Education and Training Teachers’ Association (ETEA). It is a rank-and-file organization, started by ESL teachers in 1995 and currently has 9 locals in post-secondary private language schools. ETEA is part of a larger organization, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE), which represent over 8,000 faculty and staff at post-secondary colleges, university colleges, institutes and agencies in the province.

This is a model we should all be aspiring too, obviously part of the ferment and militancy -- and track record of strikes -- of BC teachers in the public sector.

On the West Coast of the U.S. we have been reaching out to them to try to create an industrial network of organized shops across borders and throughout the region. We have done an IWW-style organizer training for Adult Ed teachers in the Bay Area and have already begun to build something similar at three private EFL/ESL schools in San Francisco -- as well as forging links to teachers doing similar work in the public sector, where most of their organizing is part of defensive struggles against austerity-driven cutbacks.

Question to clm78: where in Asia? I ask because I taught in Japan and South Korean in the late 1990s.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Joined: 5-10-07
Jun 9 2015 17:46

Hi clm, I'm one of the folks involved in the Angry Language Brigade which Boze linked to above. I'm in a rush at the moment but, in short, all the sh*t you mentioned is way too common across the industry. The good news, however, is that in the UK we've had some minor successes pushing back against it.

When I have a bit more time, I'll try to write a proper response. In the mean time, don't be afraid to PM me.

If you're interested, think about writing up a piece about your experiences in the industry like this or this. We'd love to host it.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Joined: 5-10-07
Jun 9 2015 22:12

Hi again clm,

Basically, solidarity. It's sh*t to find out the working conditions you were expecting fail to live up to expectations. And, as a fellow language teaching worker, I've been there.

That said, things to know:

1) If you're working for a specific school, it's basically impossible to be self-employed as an English teacher in the UK. Check this:

2) If you're employer tries to change your terms and conditions, you have a right to be consulted. The "consultation" is usually a joke, but it does provide an in to begin organising around workplace issues.

3) In the UK - and in London in particular - the IWW has members in the TEFL industry. They have experience supporting these workers in disputes and there's even a f*cking awesome rep with experience dealing with language schools.

4) Related, the IWW and the Solidarity Federation runs workplace organiser trainings around the UK. If you have no experience organising at work, this is a great place to start.

Now, on any of these issues, sticking with your workmates is key. So on the self-employed status, we've helped one group of workers at a London language school raise the issue with their manager. We took a softly-softly approach with that one, but all the workers at that school now have directly employed contracts and got a big chunk of back pay for un-accrued holiday pay.

In another dispute, the Angry Language Brigade and the IWW supported a group London language teachers when their school closed down without notice. Although that dispute hasn't been a total success, it was a really energetic and well-fought campaign. The point being: if you can get even a couple of your co-workers on board, there are people out there - including other TEFLers - who will step up to support you.

Anyway, if you don't mind me asking, where are you based now? How big is your school? What's your current contract like? Etc, etc.