TEFL Workers’ Union launched in London

iww.org.uk

IWW members in London are building a union for all workers in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry. If you work in a language school anywhere in the UK and would like to get involved, please contact us at tefl@iww.org.uk or through our facebook page.

We are teachers, receptionists, admin staff and interns who are tired of bad contracts and insecure employment. We’re tired of being treated like we’re disposable.

As members of the IWW union, we’ve decided to launch a union in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry. But we’re not just a union for teachers. All language school workers deserve permanent contracts, paid sick days, and paid meetings and trainings. Teachers deserve paid prep time.

Cleaners, teachers, admins staff and interns – we all deserve a wage we can live on. None us should struggle to get by month to month. We work hard, we should earn enough to pay a mortgage or start a family.

Background to the campaign

The campaign began off the back of some successful actions in a Central London school where the majority of teaching staff joined the IWW. In the following year, they won a much-improved pay offer, back pay for a number of teachers, and paid staff meetings and CPD sessions. More importantly, the workers learned how to stand up for themselves and each other and to build a sense of solidarity and confidence at work.

At schools across London, the IWW has:

  • helped a group of teachers claim holiday pay unlawfully denied to them
  • won thousands of pounds for a teacher forced to undertake bogus ‘teacher training’ classes
  • won a payout for a receptionist who was unfairly dismissed
  • won thousands of pounds in unpaid wages for a group of teachers when their school unexpectedly closed down
  • successfully challenged an unfair pay review process
  • guided a group of teachers through a collective grievance in order to challenge discrimination

We’ve launched the campaign by distributing leaflets and speaking to many workers at several schools across Central London. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, reinforcing our belief that a union has been a long time coming in this industry where exploitation and abuse is rife.

We’ve also been holding a series of events, including a Union Representative training tailored specifically to language school workers and a “Know Your Rights” training on zero-hour contracts. We also run an Organiser Training which gives language school workers the tools to tackle workplace issues.

Our plans for the future

At the moment, our focus is letting language school workers in London know there’s a union for them. In the process, we’re helping to connect workers from different schools to share stories and support each other. As a union, we’re here to offer training and support.

Our ultimate goal is to establish a ‘TEFL charter’ that outlines a minimum standard of pay and conditions. With it, we can demand that all London schools finally provide decent working conditions to all staff.

We are already in contact and sharing experiences with language school workers in a number of cities in the UK and Ireland.

Get involved

By joining the IWW, we have taken the first steps to improve our conditions on the job. Even in these early stages of the campaign, we’ve shown that by sticking together and taking action we can force language schools to begin treating us with the dignity and respect we deserve.

For too long, language schools have gotten away with lousy contracts, poor working conditions and shameful employment practices. The industry needs to change – and that won’t happen unless we make our voices heard. We have to stand up and stand together. We need solidarity and organisation. We need a union.

If you feel the same way, get in touch.

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No Work Without Pay: Boycott CJ Barbers!

Brighton SolFed
Brighton SolFed has started a public campaign against CJ Barbers, who owe one of our members over two months in unpaid wages. The worker was employed as an “apprentice” for no wages, with the promise of paid work after two months. Unfortunately, this kind of practice is common in the barbering industry in Brighton, so the worker decided to go along with it. After the two months were up, CJ Barbers paid him…£50 a week, for full time work! The worker left two weeks later.

During this so-called “apprenticeship” the worker was given no contract, no opportunity to work towards any qualification, and worked full time hours. This therefore does not meet the legal requirement of an  apprenticeship, which is why we are demanding that CJ Barbers pays our member the full legal minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension contributions for the hours he worked, which total £2821.63.

The worker explains: “CJ Barbers promised me an education and a fully paid position after two months of free labour. This was a lie on both fronts so I quit when I discovered they had no intention of ever paying me properly. They were exploiting my labour and lying about my ability as a barber to prevent me seeking other employment.

“Because they did not keep keep up their end of the deal I am now demanding they pay the minimum of what my workers rights entitle me to.”

SolFed tried to resolve the dispute amicably, offering them the opportunity to resolve the matter before we made it public. However, we received no response to our overtures. Therefore, on Sunday 7th April, we opened a public dispute by picketing CJ Barbers. The management were immediately hostile, with both owners yelling at SolFed members, and one pushing picketers around. However, his attempts to disrupt the picket by pretending to be cleaning his windows only served to provide entertainment for passers-by! The owner also made a number of baseless accusations about the character of his ex-worker.

The owners have also made several legal threats against both the worker and SolFed, and contacted the police multiple times in an attempt to scare us away. However, it’s clear that they’ve realised that this kind of intimidation doesn’t work, and have instead now taken to the internet with their friends to refer to us as a “gang”.

Unpaid trials are a huge problem in our city, and Brighton SolFed has had success in the past  of organising with workers to ensure that no work is without pay.

Our dispute with CJ Barbers will be ongoing until this worker receives the pay they are owed.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

 

How bad is global inequality, really?

Local Futures

Most everyone who’s interested in global inequality has come across the famous elephant graph, originally developed by Branko Milanovic and Christoph Lakner using World Bank data (see below). The graph charts the change in income that the world’s population have experienced over time, from the very poorest to the richest 1%.

We can update the elephant graph using the latest data from the World Inequality Database, which covers the whole period from 1980 to 2016 using a method called “distributive national accounts”. Here’s what it looks like in real dollars (MER), developed in collaboration with Huzaifa Zoomkawala:

The elephant graph has been used by some to argue that neoliberal globalization has caused inequality to decline since 1980. After all, it would appear that the biggest gains have gone to the poorest 60% of the world’s population, whose incomes have grown two or three times more than those of the richest 40%.

But this impression can be misleading. It’s important to recognize that the elephant graph shows relative gains, with respect to each group’s baseline in 1980. So the poorest 10-20th percentile gained 82% over this period. That sounds like a lot, on the face of it. But remember that they started from a very low base. For people earning $2.40 per day in 1980, their incomes grew to no more than $4.36 per day… over a period of 36 years. So, about 5 cents per year. [ … 433 more words]

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‘Welcome to hell’

scottish unemployed workers’ network

Jim was far from happy when we met him. Rules governing UC claimants who are in irregular employment were making his life a misery, and making him question the whole point of working. Jim, however, is no ‘skiver’, that largely mythical creature, so beloved of Tory ministers and their willing little mouthpieces in the main stream media. As he himself put it, ‘I hae to work, it’s noa jist the money, but it’s getting harder and harder.’ In the last few months his UC claim has been repeatedly shut down.

In the past, someone who got short-term work could make a rapid reclaim when it ended to get back onto JSA, and any way there was no long initial wait to get payments. Now, with the supposedly simplified system of UC, which was meant to make it easier to go in and out of work, your claim can get shut down if even a short term job takes you over the monthly threshold, and how long it takes to start up again is a lottery, depending on when in your assessment cycle your job ends. As we explained in a previous blog, you may be plunged into deep economic insecurity for as long as nine weeks before getting back on UC payments.

In the last year alone, Jim has had five separate jobs, and has had his UC claim shut down on two occasions. As a manual worker who is employed on zero hour and short term contracts, he is keenly aware of the difference between Tory rhetoric regarding life on UC and the sometimes brutal reality of working at the front line of ‘the gig economy’ that neo-liberal ‘voodoo economics’ have brought into being.

And, having worked for a wide range of employers, Jim is also well aware of the ‘tricks’ employers use to deceive and pressurise workers: of employers who take you on but then ‘punt you when their order is completed’; of managers at the Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline who take on new workers and then ‘beast them until they go faster, or get rid of them altogether’; of workers who receive verbal warnings (‘three strikes and you’re out’) for spending five minutes in the toilet rather than the two minutes they are allowed. As we talked, he turned to the buroo, and, pointing to its entrance, exclaimed, ‘There should be sign up ower that door, saying “Welcome to Hell”’.

The Working Class has no country! Solidarity with Brazilian couriers in Dublin.

Borders serve only the bosses, states are cross-class alliances. Away with them!

From IWW Ireland.

Brazilian Deliveroo couriers in Dublin have been leading a campaign against xenophobic attacks and thefts.

All of us who have worked as couriers know the physical dangers we face on a day to day basis. Not only must we navigate urban traffic, often in the dark or adverse conditions, but we have very little control over the areas we travel to, and those of us on bikes and mopeds are continuously physically exposed.

These factors are compounded by inequalities within society around race, nationality, gender, sexuality, age, physical ability, and so on. An area that feels safe to a white man, might not feel so safe to woman of colour, or some may face racial profiling from police or Immigration authorities as they go about their jobs.

On top of this, our work require that we carry around expensive equipment, whether vehicles or smartphones. This can make us targets for thieves, who in certain areas have set up strategies specifically targeting couriers for their vehicles, smartphones, and whatever else they may be carrying.

The arms-length nature of our relationship with our ’employers’ means that they can shirk most of the responsibility for our safety or for any loss or damage to equipment. Where insurance schemes are offered, they are limited in scope and can be hard to access.

These are all aspects of precarious employment – various means by which risk is pushed down on to us, the workers, while those who employ us are set to reap the rewards.

In Dublin they are setting an example in how to challenge this state of affairs – by standing together, collectivising the struggle, and forcing those who seek to reap the rewards to account for the risks we must face.

From across the UK and Ireland we declare solidarity with our fellow couriers in Dublin, and all those who stand up against violence and xenophobia in their workplaces and beyond.

We can only fight precarity with solidarity!

Dopey deliveroo!

Ahead of the valentine’s day strike we sent our demands by e-mail and registered post to deliveroo, who were kind enough to copy us into the e-mail instructing their staff not to respond. Believe it or not, we’ve just had the follow-up:

It’s always good to know what calibre of adversary you’re up against in the Class War.

Report from the front line: Bournemouth couriers shut down deliveroo on Valentine’s day!

L Bournemouth town centre, R banner drop on A338

Twenty-seven riders struck in Bournemouth. Nineteen picketed the largest and busiest KFC in Bournemouth, others went sick, or celebrated valentines with a loved one. Four scabs crossed the picket line, looking “furtive and guilty” – you know who you are! However four new riders were recruited to the strike group.

One striker assessed the viability of ordering food on the customer app:

“The only places I can order from are ones that provide their own delivery … It worked. I can’t get any (deliveroo rider) delivered food at the moment. … all the town centre and landsdowne restaurants show up … From 9:15 I couldn’t order food if I wanted to.”

Future actions will enforce deliveroo rates equivalent to the new minimum wage of £8.21 per hour. Another striker commented:

The overall feelings of anger, aggression and disgust towards Deliveroo, rose again last night, to a new level. We refuse to let Deliveroo reduce us to poverty stricken workers, who are grateful for crumbs that fall from the company’s table.

The support from other striking riders in the UK was uplifting, and show us that the battles being fought by individual towns and cities are now combining, to becoming a united and coordinated War.”

Don’t cross picket lines!