Solidarity gets the goods!

IWW WISE-RA 18th October 2021

On Saturday 16th October IWW Cymru members held an informational picket outside a cafe in Dolgellau, Gwynedd.

Gallwch ddarllen yr erthygl hon mewn Cymraeg fan hyn.

The management had ignored multiple requests by an ex-worker for their P45. The worker urgently needed this P45 to be able to claim benefits in their home country. This was having a real, negative impact on their life.

The worker decided to get their union, the IWW, involved. The employer promised to help “after lockdown” before ignoring our subsequent correspondence and Subject Access Request. We decided to pay the cafe a visit. IWW members held an informational picket, informing potential customers of the situation and asking them not to go to the cafe until the dispute was settled. The employer soon did so and hastily issued a P45 for the worker.

Employers too often think they can get away with mistreating workers, especially migrant workers. The IWW, a DIY union, believes in solidarity and standing up to the bosses. Together we can win!

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

Bristol CEX solidarity pickets.

Bristol Solidarity Federation have picketed electrical goods retailer CEX in solidarity with their workers in Barcelona who have suffered bullying, dismissal and unfair disciplinary measures.

Multinational CEX may be known to you a seller of video games but it also becoming known as terrible exploiter of worker’s rights. One serious concern is how a CNT-AIT member has been not allowed a reduction of hours even the care for a child, actions will continue until their demands are met.

Solidarity Federation is the British section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA-AIT)

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Kill the Bill, deportations, arms fairs and more: mid-August class struggle round-up

Cautiously pessimistic

The joint PCS/UVW strike action by outsourced workers demanding equal treatment at Royal Parks started on Monday the 16th and is set to run till the 30th August. You can donate to their strike fund here, and email their bosses in support of the strike using a tool here. In other PCS news, DVLA workers are striking over Covid safety through the whole of August. Another long-running strike continues in Bexley, where bin workers are still on strike over pay and victimisation issues, and have previously warned that the dispute could stretch out into October.

Also, pretty much all the health unions are running pay ballots of some kind at the moment, so those are important to vote in for anyone who works in that sector. See Health Workers United for more on that.

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Discrimination in Bournemouth update: ELT institutions shirk their responsibility

Watch this space for another TEFL dispute in Bournemouth, they don’t like it up ’em!

IWW WISE-RA

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:

https://www.englishuk.com/uploads/assets/members/rules/English_UK_Rules.pdf

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.

Surprise picket at United World language school in support of disabled worker.

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
https://www.unitedworldschool.co.uk/contact-us

Solidarity from the Overseas Teachers to Language House London staff

Industrial Workers of the World WISERA (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England Regional Administration)Demonstrating the IWW’s commitment to solidarity within and across workplaces, the teachers at the Overseas Teachers – in the middle of their own dispute over bogus self-employment – have sent words of solidarity and congratulations to the teachers at Language House London who’ve just won their case against false self-employment.

To our Comrades over at Language House London,

Congratulations for winning your tribunal case after a long campaign against the awful wage-theft you’ve encountered!

It is great news to see comrades in a similar situation winning their case, we have full sympathy towards the efforts you have made to get to this point and we thank you for fighting for justice from the terrible conditions that you faced at the company. We hope that you can now take a well-earned rest from campaigning.

Solidarity,

Comrades at The Overseas Teacher

Organising Versus Activism

organizing work

JS Richard describes the difference between activism and organizing, arguing that activism is politically ineffective and should be abandoned for an organizing approach.

This is further afield than our usual workplace organizing pieces, but is relevant to debates within the IWW about what kinds of activity the union should engage in.  –Ed.

Activism has become the main political approach for the radical left in North America. It has been used without much consideration of its strategic validity for at least 30 years, and the results it has brought about are thin. Several elements condemn activism to political sterility. An “organizing” approach to political activity would be far more effective.

What is activism?

Activism can be identified as political activity that sets up short-term actions and statements on variety of causes and social problems. It moves from one issue to the next, once a sufficient expression of dissent has been voiced. It is based on an abstract opposition in principle rather than an attempt to obtain concrete concessions from the people in power, be they bosses, state officials, landlords, etc.. Activism is usually scattered politically, reactive and unfocused. For example, Google sets up shop in a city, and pushes the local government to destroy cheaper housing to make room for luxury condos; activists answer this by parachuting themselves, as militants, into the neighborhood, postering and leafleting for a bit, organizing one or two demos… and then move on when a policeman shoots a teen in the back, dropping the “old” issue for the new one, and so on.

There are, of course, organisations that fight in relation to these issues in a sustained and meaningful way. The issues are not in question. The point is that activism is often, if not always, futile in addressing social problems.

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TEFL Workers’ Union Declares Victory in Delfin Redundancy Dispute

iww.org.uk

The entire teaching staff at Delfin was made redundant last year just five days before Christmas. The TEFL Workers’ Union, which represents staff at the school, maintains the redundancy process failed to meet the required legal standard.  In response, the union undertook a series of pickets alongside a social media campaign.

Choosing to focus largely on Delfin’s business partners, there was a national day of protest targeting a language school chain from whom Delfin is renting teaching space. Protests were also directed towards a staffing agency which began providing teachers to Delfin immediately after the redundancies.

Delfin, which declared insolvency during the subsequent negotiations, failed to send someone from the Dublin head office to London to discuss the matter.

According TEFL Workers’ Union representative Anna Clark:

“The Delfin teachers fought a hard campaign and were lucky to be able to count on the support of the London EFL community and IWW branches around the UK. As a result, they secured an enhanced redundancy package – something that’s virtually unheard of in the language teaching industry.”

In a further act of solidarity – and one which stands in stark contrast to that of their employer – Delfin teachers secured the additional payment for a further two teachers who had left the school before formal redundancies were announced.

Teachers at Delfin joined the TEFL Workers’ Union in 2018 making it one of the few unionised language schools in London.  Over the course of the following year and half, teachers won significant contract improvements including paid sick days, paid meetings and trainings, and the removal of unlawful clauses in their contracts.

A statement put out by the union had this to say,

“This victory shows how badly the language teaching industry needs a union. For too long, workers in language schools have had to deal with employers that pay little heed to law and have even less concern for the welfare of their staff. But when we stand together, real gains can be made.”

Delfin Cancels Christmas: A Personal Account

iww.org.uk

The Saturday before the last working week of the year, the teachers at Delfin School were emailed by the director and asked to confirm our attendance at a meeting the following Monday. Alarm bells were ringing that weekend as everybody feared the worst. We had been looking forward to the two- week Christmas/New Year break.

At the meeting on the Monday, we were advised that the school was downsizing and moving premises and that there would be redundancies. The policy was to be ‘last in, first out’, but we would have the opportunity to put forward, and discuss ideas to avoid being made redundant at a follow up meeting that Thursday. It was difficult to know what we were going to suggest on the Thursday, because the school had been far from honest in the information they’d given us, eg, how many redundancies there’d be, where the school was moving to ( they said they didn’t know ) and projected student numbers in 2020.

Thursday came, and we weren’t given much more info in that meeting. Just that we’d know around lunch time on Friday who was going to become out of work. All of this was causing a great deal of stress, and we were still teaching, trying to keep the forthcoming dismay in the background. On the Friday we learnt that the criteria for redundancies had changed from last in, first out to ‘skills’. This being unclear as each member of the teaching team was a skilled individual who had given their all to supplying engaging lessons at the school. We waited all day for news that Friday. The school was busy packing up its materials, clearly with a destination in mind. In fact, management came into classes to announce the new location they were moving to, but still no news for the teachers.

It was around half past six that Friday evening, that one by one, the school systematically gave redundancy notice to each of the teachers. That evening would have been the beginning of a much earned and needed break for the teachers. Instead we found through social media contact that they’d got rid of us all.

When the school opened its doors again in the new year, we discovered that classes were running with teachers from an agency.

Christmas 2019 was cancelled for a dedicated team of teachers at Delfin School.

5 days before Christmas Delfin English unlawfully sacked their entire teacher staff, the majority of whom were members of the IWW TEFL Workers Union.

Help us send a message to Delfin and any company that does business with Delfin: The IWW will not stand for attacks on our members!

Monday 2Oth January: 24 hour email zap of Evocation EFL Agency

Why: Because Evocation is supplying agency teachers to do the work of the sacked Delfin teachers

Please send the following email to

martin@evocationefl.net

efl@evocationefl.net

dperlin@delfin.ie

DropDelfin

Dear Martin,

I’m writing in support of the unlawfully dismissed Delfin teachers.

Five days before Christmas Delfin made their entire teaching staff redundant.

Redundancies are made on the premise that a job role is redundant. By employing agency workers to do the work of the redundant staff, Delfin has shown that the redundancies were not genuine and, therefore, unlawful.

By supplying cover teachers to Delfin, Evocation is complicit in Delfin’s unlawful behaviour.

There is a week of action planned to target Evocation for its continued relationship with Delfin. This will include physical protests as well numerous actions that will have a significant impact on Evocation’s digital reputation.

Evocation has the option to do the right things and DROP DELFIN NOW!!!

This week of action will be cancelled when:

a) Evocation severs its business relationship with Delfin and no longer provides cover teachers

or

b) Delfin negotiates an enhanced redundancy package and re-instatement options with its staff through their trade union representatives.

IWW members and language teachers across the UK and Ireland stand behind the Delfin teachers.

Evocation: #DropDelfin

All out in support of Striking University Staff!

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.

The IWW

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 education@iww.org.uk

Download our leaflets in support of the strike: