Wobblies from our branch have been supporting these pickets in Dorset and as far afield as Sussex. Here’s a picture from the one in Bognor on Monday.
A FW writes:
BT Open Reach were on strike today and are out at least twice this month. As a smaller part of the CWU they are beginning to feel a bit left out over Royal Mail’s dispute so if FWs could share a bit on Social Media to friends and Comrades it may help to get the message out a bit about their struggle.
In June 2021 a language teacher who we shall call ‘Jo’ asked us to help prepare a case against Anglo-Continental School of English regarding the fraudulent use of “fixed term contracts” after reading about the successful outcome for staff at Kaplan School.
Jo started work at Anglo-Continental on a fixed term contract in 2010. This ended when the school closed for its December break. Jo returned to the school in January and the contract was extended for one year.
This pattern was repeated over the next eight years. They worked in the same job at the same site for at least 11 months each year with 4 weeks paid holiday, being upgraded to Co-ordinator in the summer months. The HR manager even admitted they had to break the contract annually to deny them full employment rights; often when they requested a holiday they were given a P45.
After four years, according to UK employment law, Jo became a permanent employee by default, however they were never informed of this fact by management (a breach of its contractual duty of “trust and confidence”).
In March 2020 the school shut and Jo was put on ‘furlough’ until 31st July. Their contract was then terminated on the grounds there was no work; in law this is simply ‘dismissal by reason of redundancy’. They were not consulted over redundancy selection nor told of their entitlement to compensation (another contractual breach).
Had Jo contacted the union at the time we would of course have taken it to tribunal. Unfortunately these cases are time limited but we believe if a sum is owed to a Fellow Worker, it remains owed until it is paid.
In March 2021 Jo returned to the school with a new contract which ran until they took a week off on 4th June after which it was again renewed.
In July the TEFL union wrote claiming compensation and passed the casework to Dorset branch. Within days Jo was fired. Dismissals for Trade Union activity and ‘whistle-blowing’ are automatically unfair so no need to quibble over length of service. We’ve now exhausted the grievance procedure and ACAS Conciliation so we are, at last, taking it to the Employment Tribunal.
We have sight of internal e-mails that show Anglo-continental as a dysfunctional organisation with no clear demarcation of responsibility (and a limited grasp of the English language). Five members of staff, including senior managers were overruled on a whim of their sinister boss Guido Shillig, who we’re told “doesn’t like unionists”.
The IWW will not rest until we obtain for our members the full fruits of their labour. If you teach English as a foreign language join the TEFL union and help put this villain in his place.
Watch this space for another TEFL dispute in Bournemouth, they don’t like it up ’em!
The TEFL Workers’ Union’s dispute with United World School of English in Bournemouth continues. If you don’t know about the case, it revolves around allegations that United World mistreated and discriminated against one of our members there as a result of his being disabled. The background for the dispute can be found here.
So far, the local IWW branch has held two successful pickets alongside a “Twitterstorm” targeting United World on social media. We’ve since had enquiries from local media, the TEFL press, and other Bournemouth ELT workers.
Mike, the worker at the centre of the dispute, can pick up the story from there:
The IWW has organised two pickets and they’ve been very effective. The first really struck home and brought the school back to the negotiating table. However, the owner simply repeated one of her earlier offers (offering to re-instate me), plus she added a condition. Since we’d already turned down this offer, we have no choice but to take her to tribunal.
Normally, this would probably be too difficult for me to do on my own, but with the support of the IWW, I know we can see this through. I hope this all brings about more recognition that mental health issues need to be recognised by everyone in the workplace.
We’ve filed the paperwork for an employment tribunal and we fully intend to go all the way to a hearing if United World isn’t willing to make this right. But the IWW is a fighting union and employment tribunals are always accompanied by ongoing campaigning. Part of that campaign has been to reach out to the institutions that we’re told are there to oversee the industry and ensure language schools comply with the law.
Locally, we emailed Simon Freeman. Mr Freeman is the executive officer of RALSA, which appears to operate as the local British Council affiliate in Bournemouth. Despite the fact United World is a member of RALSA, the organisation declined to investigate the matter despite our offer of corroborating documentation. More than that, RALSA refused to put out a statement condemning discrimination in even the broadest terms. Mr Freeman only offered the following response:
While I am sorry to read about this situation, it is a legal matter that RALSA is not in a position to get involved in as the courts will decide on what is / was fair and any sanctions would follow from that decision. I have checked the RALSA Constitution and any involvement in such matters is clearly not within RALSA’s remit.
From there, we contacted the national office of English UK, an organisation which makes a great public show of their commitment to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. While English UK at least had the decently to claim they stood against discrimination, they too failed to take any steps to hold one of the their affiliate schools to account:
We cannot comment on individual cases where there is a legal process ongoing.
At English UK, we take equality legislation seriously. All English UK members must adhere to a code of practice (English UK Rules, Section S2, p. 4ff) which includes the following clause:
1.3 The Member will comply with all applicable laws and regulations of the UK and European Union governments. You can find a copy of the full English UK Member Rules here:
In line with their duty to comply with all applicable UK laws, English UK members must not discriminate against anyone at work because of a protected characteristic and must make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.
This establishes, yet again, that ELT institutions will refuse to investigate their member schools regardless of the seriousness of the allegation. For English UK, it appears opposition to discrimination is merely something for lofty proclamation, not something which is to be enforced (or even investigated!) internally within the organisation.
Should Mike’s case proceed to a judgement at tribunal, we will again raise the matter with English UK to determine if, at that point, they’ll take steps to hold their members to account. We are also pursuing the matter with the British Council directly. However, given disabled workers at British Council have made allegations of discrimination while working there, it will be a welcome surprise if the British Council lives up to its responsibility as the supposed regulator of the UK ELT industry.
But this is why the TEFL Workers’ Union exists. We’re not in the least bit surprised that bosses’ organisations like English UK or the British Council fail to hold our bosses to account. And because they won’t, we will. If you’ve been mistreated at work, the union has got your back. Whether it’s legal advice, representation in a disciplinary or grievance, or a public campaign, we’re here to hold your boss to account.
Mike is a language teacher with 20 years service at United World school of English in Bournemouth. Language schools are notorious for exploitation and poor employment practices, hence the need for a TEFL union within the IWW. Mike is now suing them for constructive dismissal on grounds of disability discrimination under the equalities act 2010.
Thanks to those Fellow Workers who turned out at short notice to support him, it was great fun. Arriving at 9:30 we made a placard on the spot and gave out many leaflets. Reception from the public was entirely positive and it’s good to chat with people about their own work problems.
The bosses’ pathetic blithering fell on deaf ears, had we heard their side? Save it for the tribunal, mush, it’s an adversarial process. You can complain to these types till you’re blue in the face but when you take action they act all hurt. One told us our picket was illegal, which it isn’t. It never ceases to amaze us how ignorant some managers are concerning the laws made on their behalf.
If you treat your workers with disrespect we will shut you down! Have a read of our leaflet and tell ’em what you think:
United World School of English, Brandon & Clifton House, 44 – 46 St Peter’s Rd. Bournemouth, BH1 2LT
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 315166
What’s App: +44(0) 7825
- Gaia’s Guide: a Community Organising Guide to Help Keep Missing People Safe has been produced in memory of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope, who went missing on 7 November 2017 and whose body was discovered three years ago today.
- Gaia Pope’s disappearance made national headlines in 2017 with thousands of people joining the public effort to find her.
- From today the guide, backed by Missing People and designed for friends and family when someone disappears, will be available to download online for free.
The family of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope have today released Gaia’s Guide: a Community Organising Guide to Help Keep Missing People Safe, three years to the day since the 19-year-old’s body was found on a coastal path near her hometown of Swanage in Dorset. Pathologists found that Gaia died from hypothermia and the inquest is due to take place in May 2021. Senior Coroner for Dorset Rachael Griffin…
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Recently we successfully managed a disciplinary and grievance case on behalf of a Fellow Worker charged with misconduct. The employer seemed hell-bent on dismissing our member with no regard for procedure or evidence. The casework was skillfully handled by one of our newest trained reps. Our Fellow Worker wrote:
“Throughout what for me was a very stressful Time my Union worker with their professionalism and calm approach has taken the anxiety out of the process.
By going through the company’s policies and using them against the company won the day for me as they couldn’t argue with a firm precise response. Attention to detail is the key and I was looked after with such”
Want to help the work along? – Join the Union – Get involved!
Paul Haw is Dorset IWW Branch Secretary, a volunteer youth worker and campaigner on LGBTQ+ and disability rights.
J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.
I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.
The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.
In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.
All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.
As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.
In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.
The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.
It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.
Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.
In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.
Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.
The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.
As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.
They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.
I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.
Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.
I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”
– Albus Dumbeldore
The usual rush to set up tent and kitchen on the Friday was nothing a small group of Wobs couldn’t handle and we were ready by about 16:00 when the rain truly got going.
Concerns had been raised about food waste in previous years so the kitchen was tasked to cut down on it, improve on recycling and recycle any monies saved back to branch.
With a budget of £125 the scope for savings were good; the numbers for the first meal were small, but feedback was good for the curry and all subsequent meals. We did not use the chafing dish, so saved on fuel for its use, and then again on the Sunday lunch.
Of the £125 pounds available we spent a total of £76 on all aspects of all meals, leaving a balance of some £49 that as agreed should be returned to branch for use as funds for the Wob kitchen at radical book fair in September 2019.
Slop waste was drastically reduced and that is correct, no foam plates were used or plastic KFS (knives forks and spoons), so reducing known harmful waste.
Tinned, jar and fresh vegetables were problematic but were reduced and leftovers given to branch members for use at home after Tolpuddle 2019.
This year we had no takers for the Wob catering Cadre, but this could be down to low numbers so if the branch wishes to continue with this, maybe at some future branch meeting we can structure the idea for its use in education and ease of use.
For my part loved Tolpuddle 2019 and looking forward to 2020.