To the teachers at St. Giles Language School,
Covid-19 has negatively impacted the global economy significantly. The TEFL profession is no exception. In this challenging situation teachers and TEFL workers are supporting each other to make sure that the financial losses caused by the pandemic don’t fall solely on our shoulders.
As language school staff, we’re all in this together and we need to stick together. Let’s be resolute and determined and use all of our collective skills to get through this difficult period.
It is important to remember that, although you face redundancy, none of you are redundant because the talent of teaching in a style unique to each of you is enshrined in you that cannot be taken away.
All of us at EF and St. Giles shall stand together in solidarity with each other to get through these difficult times keeping in mind the maxim “united we stand – divided we fall”.
Bristol IWW is today publishing this statement on behalf of our members at University of the West of England (UWE) who have been facing hardship and distress due to the Executive Team’s decision not to furlough or provide direct financial assistance to all casual staff during the universities Covid-19 closure.
One hospitality worker described to the union how this situation was causing them concern, as “no furlough means that I will not be able to pay rent next month (or beyond) and that I’m at risk of homelessness. The only communications I have received told me HR is ‘looking into it’ and I haven’t heard anything back since”.
Another student ambassador explained that “many casual staff are reliant on their university income to get by financially, and we are worried that finding alternative work elsewhere in frontline industries would place us and those close to us at greater risk of infection by coronavirus”.
The IWW has written to UWE’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Steve West, on behalf of our members and their colleagues at UWE to highlight the detriments that they are currently facing and asked that these issues be addressed. Sadly Professor West has responded by refusing to discuss these issues with our union. Therefore, we have been left with no other option but to make this situation known publicly and to ask for the support of the wider Bristol community and to encourage our fellow workers at UWE to join in our struggle to reach a fair and amicable resolution.
We ask that:
- Professor West meets with casual staff and representatives from the IWW so that our concerns can be heard.
- All casual workers who are not furloughed under the job retention scheme should receive at least the equivalent pay through direct financial support from the university.
- UWE informs all casual workers of the steps being taken to provide them financial assistance and explains clearly any criteria for pay.
- All casual workers should be fully back-paid for the time since the universities closure on 24th March.
The Secretary of Bristol IWW, states that “While many workplaces have been affected by Covid-19, the actions (or lack of) taken by UWE has highlighted the precarious situation that many casual workers find themselves in. There is no good reason why the Executive Team should treat these workers any different to the permanent staff when they are so essential to the reputation and daily operation of the university”.
The IWW would like to appeal to readers that if you are a casual worker at UWE and would like to help your colleagues who are organising, so that ALL workers at UWE receive fair financial support during the pandemic, please Email email@example.com to get in touch and join the struggle!
This evening prisoner Kevan Thakrar called to inform IWOC that a known racist attempted to take his life this afternoon.
Kevin McCarthy stabbed Kevan more than four times while Kevan was at the food servery. He used a wooden shank and shouted “die, die, die!” whilst stabbing Kevan. Kevan has four puncture wounds on his back and bruises and scratches after also being hit on the head. Kevin walked past two prison officers neither of whom intervened to prevent or stop the attack until Kevan turned round to defend himself. Even then, no officers put their hands on Kevin or restrained him. No alarms were pressed/no shouting for help. Kevin McCarthy actually walked back into his own cell and locked himself in. The prison failed to take him to hospital but he was treated by two nurses on the wing.
This is the second attack Kevan has experienced in HMP Full Sutton in recent months. Kevan’s solicitor had raised a complaint about Kevin McCarthy prior to Kevan being moved onto the CSC because Kevin has perpetrated racist attacks against other prisoners before. Kevan is shaken and in need of support to demand the prison move him to a safer location and take action to stop further racist attacks on his life. Feel free to use your own words as well as the sample scripts below.
Hello, I am calling on behalf of Kevan Thakrar who is currently in the CSC at HMP Full Sutton. Kevan was stabbed four times yesterday by a known racist prisoner. Two prison officers were present and did not act to prevent or stop the attack until Kevan turned around to protect himself. This is the second attack Kevan has experienced in HMP Full Sutton in recent months and yet he is still held in the CSC.
I am really concerned about Kevan’s safety in the CSC and I am calling to demand that he is moved out of the CSC and to a safer location immediately.
I am writing as a concerned community member on hearing of a physical attack against Kevan Thakrar (A4907AE) that occurred yesterday, 23rd December at the Close Supervision Centre, HMP Full Sutton.
As I understand it, two prison officers were present and did not act to prevent or stop the attack until Kevan turned around to protect himself, the officers did not restrain the person attacking Kevan and no alarms were raised.
This is the second attack Kevan has experienced in HMP Full Sutton in recent months. Kevan has made complaints about threats of violence from known racist prisoners but no action has been taken. The person who stabbed Kevan is known to have racist views, and shouted ‘die, die die’ while stabbing Kevan. Kevan’s solicitor had raised a complaint about the person who stabbed Kevan before Kevan was moved onto the unit, as this person has made racist attacks on others.
In addition I believe that Kevan has not been seen by a Doctor and the person who stabbed Kevan remains on the same unit as him.
I am extremely concerned about Kevan’s safety and wellbeing in the CSC. Kevan has PTSD and these acts of violence add further traumas and I imagine he must be fearful for his life.
The environment created in the Close Supervision Centre makes it more likely for these acts of extreme violence to occur, and Kevan is at risk of further attacks there.
As per the Adult Safeguarding in Prison policy (National Offender Management Service 2016) Point 1.5 states that ‘All adult prisoners are protected from abuse and neglect, and prisons effectively discharge their duty of care towards them. Reported incidents of abuse and neglect are managed appropriately’.
I am urging you to move Kevan out of the CSC and to a safer location immediately in order that HMP Full Sutton adhere to their policy obligations.
Write to Governor Gareth Sands at HMP Full Sutton (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone the prison on 01759 475100.
Email the Executive Director for High Security & Long Term Estate for HM Prison and Probation Service, Richard Vince demanding Kevan be moved from the CSC to a safer location: Richard.Vince02@hmps.gsi.gov.uk
Email Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Riding: email@example.com
Keep Kevan updated with all your actions by email through emailaprisoner.com or letter to:
Kevan Thakrar, A4907AE
HMP Full Sutton
University staff represented by the UCU at 60 universities across the UK are on an 8 day strike starting November 25! Why? Universities have failed to uphold promises about pension contributions and pay, equality, casualisation, and workload.
According to the Universities and Colleges Employers Associations (UCEA), pay has dropped by around 17% in real terms since 2009, even with an overall £2 billion surplus at HEs. On top of this, the disability pay gap remains at 8.7%, the gender pay gap at 15%, and black academic staff earn 12 to 13% less than white colleagues. Over 170,000 staff are also employed through fixed or casual contracts, leading to employment uncertainty.
Conservative union laws have meant that although, overall, more than 75% of UCU union members voted for strike action, only universities that met the 50% participation threshold have been able to call for a strike. This is a perfect example of the political effort expended to suffocate the labour movement in the UK. Thus, it is worth remembering that although not all universities are on strike, all universities are affected by the above statistics.
Corporatisation of Education
This strike needs to be understood in the context of the general trend of ‘corporatising’ universities and education at large. Universities are being increasingly run as a business which means that any and all costs need to be suppressed for the sake of the bottom line. As such, staff have salaries stop rising, recruitment decreases, workload increased, and contact hours with students are slashed. This makes it impossible for universities to meet their social and civic duties of educating the next generation. Students become nothing more than the products on the assembly line of the university factory.
I’m a student, this strike is inconvenient
Strikes are inconvenient for everyone. No one wants to be out on a picket line to demand for their most basic rights, especially during the winter season. If your university is on strike, it’s important to remember that a strike is a last resort and happens only when employers refuse to do the right thing. It’s a university’s unwillingness to treat staff fairly that has led us here.
It’s also important to remember that drops in staff working conditions also means that your quality of education decreases, even though your fees keep going up. We believe that teachers and students deserve the best, and that the way to get that is by fighting together.
How can I support the strike?
If your institution is on strike, do not cross the picket line! Better yet, why not join it and have a few conversations with striking staff to better understand their concerns. Picketers also always enjoy a bit of music and some snacks and warm drinks. If you choose to join the picket line, make sure you follow UCU picket line guidance.
If your university is not on strike, we would encourage you to pick a day and visit the nearest picket line. You can also print out our leaflets supporting the strike (long version / short version) or these ones prepared by the UCU and distribute them on campus. We would also urge you to have conversations with your professors about these strikes and their work conditions as well as ask for your student union to endorse the strike – which the National Union of Students has already done.
It goes without saying that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are fully behind this and every struggle fought by the working class in the UK and around the world. There is no doubt that education has a central role in our society. The worsening conditions under which our educators work under, from university professors to scientists in research institutions, are symptomatic of the steady onslaught of capitalism which has submitted all activities to the interest of profit.
We believe, as we always have, that it is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. Only then, absent the constant roadblocks set up by capital, can education, and indeed all social services, achieve their mission of empowering workers and advancing science.
With this in mind, we call on our members across all Branches and Industrial Unions to take concrete actions in supporting this strike.
If you are employed by an educational institution, please reach out to the IWW’s Education Workers Union (IU620) on firstname.lastname@example.org
Download our leaflets in support of the strike:
We would like to start a TEFL group in Dorset, there are many language schools especially in the BH postcode area. If you are employed by one of these firms in any capacity and would like to participate in this new initiative, please get in touch.
If you are a student, we would like to hear from you also. Remember you can carry your IWW membership in and out of work, and across national borders.
Teachers at Delfin Language School in London have joined the TEFL Workers Union, part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). As a result, they have won major improvements to their working conditions.
Prior to unionisation, Delfin contracts were copied-and-pasted templates off the internet that, in many instances, didn’t meet basic legal minimums. After a year-long campaign, the teachers now have paid meetings and CPD training sessions, five paid sick days, a pay structure and contracts that guarantee a minimum of 15 hours a week. With union support, the teachers also won back pay and a pay increase for three teachers who’d been unfairly denied a rise.
Throughout the campaign, workers have stuck together and stood up for themselves and each other. This has meant many things: taking out individual and collective grievances, setting up a shared email account to communicate collectively with management, demanding group meetings with senior managers, and organising a boycott of yearly appraisals.
On one occasion, an IWW representative in Ireland had to pay a visit to the main Delfin campus in Dublin in order to get a response from the school. Similarly, the London teachers’ negotiating hand was strengthened when their fellow Delfin teachers in Dublin joined the UNITE ELT union. Teacher-to-teacher and union-to-union communication increased the teachers’ power and made management aware that national boundaries would not prove a barrier to solidarity.
Throughout all of this, the IWW TEFL Workers Union has been instrumental in offering legal guidance, a meeting space, representation, training, and strategic advice.
One of the Delfin teachers had this to say about the value in joining the union and getting organised:
“I’m not exactly coming up for retirement, but I wish I’d done this ten years ago. All aspects of my working life until this last year have been in the hands of my employers and this has not worked out well for me. I’ll never let that happen again and neither should any other teacher.”
The struggle is not over. Delfin has agreed to meet their staff for formal negotiations and the teachers still want to secure paid prep time, better pay, and greater accountability and transparency from management. The IWW TEFL Workers Union will be there to help them achieve that.
If you work in a language school, the IWW is happy to sit down with you to discuss your contract and answer any questions you may have. We also offer training, advice, and representation in disciplinaries and grievances.
The TEFL Workers Union is open to all workers in language schools, including receptionists, admin staff, interns, cleaners, and sales staff. If you work at a language school and you have a problem at work, the IWW has got your back.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
We distribute an independent newsletter, calling for independent workers’ action, inside or outside the union, by all means necessary…
In January 2019, IWOC member John Bowden was denied parole after nearly forty years in prison. The reasons given for this denial were not related to public safety or rehabilitation but to his political activity. John writes about the decision made and the role the parole board.
On the 22nd January 2019 after almost forty years in prison, the Parole Board considered the case for either my release or continued imprisonment. In the case of a life sentence or indeterminately sentenced prisoners once such prisoners have been detained for the length of time initially recommended by the judiciary or Secretary of State, in my case 25 years. Then the Parole Board has statutory and legal obligation and responsibility to review the case for either the release or the continued detention of such prisoners. At three previous parole hearings, my release had been denied by the Parole Board claiming I was a “difficult and anti-authoritarian” prisoner, and insufficiently obedient to prison authority. My actual risk or danger to the public, the prime official criteria for denying the release of life sentence prisoners, was never cited as a reason for my continued imprisonment.
At my parole hearing on the 22nd January, this year, all the professionals employed to assess the potential risk of prisoners to the community, prison psychologists, probation officers, etc., all provided evidence stating that my actual risk to the community was either minimal or non-existent and that I could be ‘safely managed’ outside of prison. My lawyer informed the parole panel that the three main criteria were determining the ‘suitability of release’ of life sentence prisoners were all confirmed in my case. These are:
- Has the prisoner served a sufficient length of time to satisfy the interest of retribution?
- Does the prisoner represent a minimal risk to the community?
- Can the prisoner be safely managed in the community?
Therefore there was no real lawful justification for my continued imprisonment. Especially as I remained in prison for almost fifteen years, beyond the length of time initially recommended by the judiciary. The issues raised by the parole panel were not, in fact, my potential risk to the community or potential for violent behaviour. All of which had been assessed by the system professionals who gave evidence at the hearing and who unanimously attested that my risk of either violent behaviour or risk to the community was minimal. The main concern of the parole panel was my propensity to challenge prison authority and my association with radical political groups on the outside, specifically Anarchist Black Cross.
Representatives from the London Probation Service informed the panel that all the groups that I was associated with were lawful and none were associated were illegal activity. Moreover, in terms of my relationship with the prison system, while I continued to question and challenge what I perceived as abuses of power, I had not been involved in violent protest actions against the system for over twenty years.
After the parole hearing, the panel announced that it would deliver its decision regarding my release within fourteen days. By law, parole panels must deliver decisions within fourteen days of hearings. On the fourteenth day following my hearing the Parole Board claimed that it had not concluded the hearing on the 22nd January but had “adjourned” it and would conclude with a “paper hearing”, when my lawyer and I would not be present, on the 20th February. They also requested additional information from the probation officers responsible for my post-release supervision concerning the conditions and rules of that supervision. The probation officers subsequently provided the Board with the information and reiterated that in their professional opinion I could be safely managed and supervised in the community.
On the 20th February, the Parole Board then claimed that they had “deferred” the “paper hearing” because one of the Board members considering my release had decided to go on leave. In early March in response to inquiries from the Probation Service regarding a parole decision, the Parole Board said that they were in the process of “finalising” their decision.
What was becoming increasingly apparent was that the Parole Board did not want to make a decision, or at least a decision authorising my release, which placed them in something of a quandary.
Confronted by the evidence and recommendations of system professionals such as probation officers and prison-hired psychologists who had all stated that there was no public protection justification for my continued imprisonment. The Parole authorities were denied a legitimate legal cover for my continued detention, and obviously were extremely reluctant to openly declare the real reason for their desire to deny my release – a determination to continue my punishment for ever having dared to fight and challenge the prison system, and my refusal to compromise or surrender my political integrity and spirit.
In reality, when considering the release of life sentence prisoners one criteria is given absolute priority over all others, and it indeed is not “public protection” or the propensity, or not, of the prisoner to criminally re-offend. The most fundamental criteria governing the release decision of life sentence prisoners is the absolute obedience of the prisoner to the authority of those enforcing that imprisonment? Essentially, prisons exist as instruments of social control to tame the rebellious poor and condition them into total obedience to the system; “rehabilitation” is merely a veneer used to legitimise an institution that is intrinsically brutal and inhuman.
Extremely high levels of “re-offending” and re-imprisonment illustrate just how ineffective prisons are as instruments of genuine “public protection”. What influences and determines Parole Board decisions is more the “model prisoner” inclination of the prisoner being considered for release then whether they represent a genuine “risk to the public” or are likely to “re-offend.” In my case, therefore, while the Parole Board was probably satisfied that my actual risk to the ordinary public was either minimal or non-existent, and after being imprisoned for almost forty years the “interests of retribution” had been adequately satisfied in my case. Nevertheless, my continuing propensity to challenge the authority and power of those imprisoning me, in the eyes of a white middle-class Parole Board, rendered me “unsuitable for release.”
In 1980 I, along with two other men, was imprisoned for the killing of a fourth man during a drunken gathering of petty criminals in a South London council estate. Imprisoned for a minimum of 25 years I was cast into a jail system characterised by naked brutality and violent repression that dealt with “difficult” prisoners in an often-destructive way. An already emotionally and psychologically much damaged young state-raised prisoner and now with absolutely nothing to lose, I responded to the violence of the system with extreme resistance.
In 1983 I was convicted of taking a prison governor hostage and had an additional ten years added to my sentence. I was also consigned to solitary confinement for four years in conditions of total de-humanisation. I continued to resist and fight back, and was frequently brutalised, but also experienced profound political radicalisation and came to see my struggle against the prison system as part of a much broader struggle against state oppression everywhere.
For the next three decades of my imprisonment I committed myself totally to the struggle for prisoner’s rights, and as a result, was labelled by the prison authorities as a “subversive and difficult prisoner.” In 1992 I managed to escape and with the assistance of political supporters outside I lived and travelled widely around Europe before being re-captured two years later.
In 2007 I was finally transferred to an open prison, supposedly as preparation for release, and worked each day in the outside community as a literacy tutor for adults with learning difficulties. Then 12 months later I was “Down Graded” back to a high-security prison following a report by a prison probation officer that I was linked to what he described as a “terrorist organisation”. A subsequent official investigation established that the organisation concerned was, in fact, a completely lawful prisoner support group, and I was eventually returned to an open prison. Twelve months later I failed to return to the prison following an outside shopping trip and following my apprehension was again “Down-Graded” to a high-security jail. Eleven years later I remain in “closed conditions”. Devoid of a genuine “public protection” justification for my continued imprisonment that imprisonment is continued purely because I am perceived by the establishment as unbroken and defiant, and motivated by a political belief system that condemns me irredeemably as the other.
The reality is that although the Parole Board has little choice but to appear to review my continued imprisonment, it has no intention of agreeing to my release, at least not while I retain even a semblance of defiance and political integrity. My actual perceived risk or danger to the community, which has been assessed by system professionals as basically non-existent, is no longer even evoked by the Board as justification for what has now become my unlawful detention.
On the 18th of March, the Parole Board finally delivered its decision that it prefaced with the admission: “All the professionals support your release on licence and do not consider your risk to the public to be imminent”. Martin Jones, CEO of the Parole Board, recently stated to the media: “We have a statutory release test that we have to apply in every case. Moreover, that releasing test is whether the parole applicant’s continued detention is necessary for the protection of the public”.
In my case, however, the Parole Board decided that I would remain imprisoned not in the interest of public protection. However, because a parole hostel intended to house and “supervise” released long-term prisoners had not given a definite confirmation that it would provide accommodation and “supervision” in my case for a more extended period than usually required for released prisoners. The hostel concerned, the London Probation Service and the Multi-Agency Public Protection Agency had all assured the Parole Board that following a specific length of time in the hostel my continued accommodation there would be assessed and an extended period provided if considered necessary.
This was ignored by the Parole Board who were determined to find any semblance of a reason or justification to deny my release. It was subsequently revealed that there was a double-edged reason for the denial of my release. Essentially my refusal to submit mind, body and soul to the authority of the prison system was the prime reason I was considered “unsuitable for release”. However, for some time there had been tension between the Parole Board and Justice Ministry because the former had wanted the period of time that released life sentence prisoners were held in parole hostels significantly extended. While the Justice Ministry claimed that a huge demand on places within a restricted number of such hostels and a general lack of resources at their disposal made longer-stay hostels uncreatable.
The refusal of my release was clearly intended by the Parole Board to send a message to the Justice Ministry. That unless post-release life sentence prisoners are “supervised” for a significantly more extended period within parole hostels, and the resources provided for that, then more of them would merely remain incarcerated, regardless of whether they remained a risk to the community or not.
So officially my release was denied after 40 years not because I am considered a risk or danger to anyone, but only because I am now held as a virtual hostage in a conflict between two state agencies.This amounts to unlawful imprisonment and will now be judicially challenged.Britain currently has the highest population of life sentenced prisoners in the whole of Europe, and as the social and political climate here becomes increasingly more repressive and retributive that population of the civil dead will continue growing.
John welcomes letters from the outside. Write to him at:
John Bowden A5026DM
HMP Warren Hill
IWOC member Kevan Thakrar is urgently in need of support from people outside of prison. Having been held in what amounts to solitary confinement in Close Supervision Centres (‘prisons within prisons’) for the past nine years, Kevan has recently been subject to severe racial abuse from other prisoners at HMP Whitemoor.
These prisoners are members of the ‘Death Before Dishonour’ group, a network dedicated to abuse and violence towards Muslim prisoners, whose members have carried out acts of extreme violence. Kevan has previously written about the ways in which racist abuse is condoned and encouraged in prisons. Journalist and ex-prisoner Eric Allison has also written about the racial abuse Kevan has experienced in the past and the systemic Islamophobia at HMP Frankland.
Please write to prison and Ministry of Justice officials to demand that Kevan is protected from prisoners and officers perpetrating racist abuse and violence, and that he is afforded his basic human rights such as time out of his cell, meaningful human contact in the prison and contact with family and friends.
You can write to:
CM R. Grice
Head of Security
Or phone the prison on: 01354 602 350
Secretary of State for Justice
102 Petty France
Or contact him at the Ministry of Justice: https://contact-moj.dsd.io/correspondence/topic
MP for North East Cambridgeshire
You can also write to Kevan. He may not always be able to reply but really appreciates support and solidarity:
Kevan Thakrar A4907AE