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December 2018

Irish Tefl teachers’ terms slammed as Senate debate new regulations

Members of Unite the union protest terms and conditons of English teachers at a protest outside DCAS school dublin october 2018 pic Unite the Union republic of ireland Members of Unite the union protest terms and conditons of English teachers at a protest outside DCAS school Dublin in October 2018. Image: Unite the Union Republic of Ireland

Matt Salusbury

Irish senator Lynn Ruane has condemned the ‘terrible conditions under which English language teachers… are working’ in the country.

The independent senator was speaking during debate on the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2018. This empowers the regulator, Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI), to scrutinise the financial capacity of ELT providers, but omits mention of employment law compliance.

In her speech, Ruane recounted how Parliament’s Education Committee had ‘received accounts of teachers receiving no contract for their work despite working for the same provider for years.’

‘Zero and low-hour contracts are the norm,’ she said, ‘as is widespread bogus self-employment’. Non-native speaker teachers were frequently paid lower wages, the senator claimed.

Roy Hassey, of trade union Unite, told the Gazette that they had ‘been working on this over the last year’ with Senator Ruane and others on the left.

Lynns Headshot

Senator Lynn Ruane, who made a speech in the Republic of Ireland's Senate on the terms and conditions faced by private sector English language teachers. Image: courtesy of the Office of Senator Lynn Ruane

Unite, which has been building membership among English language teachers, hopes amendments will be proposed in November. These include a Fair Employment Mark to ensure language schools comply with employment law and to establish a teacher protection fund to cover teachers’ wages in the event of a school’s closure. Senator Raune’s office told the Gazette there is an opportunity for this at the next Committee stage of the Bill, which is expected to pass before Christmas 2018.

Unite’s submission to the Education Committee included the example of Limerick school LISC/Lanlearn. This closed suddenly in March 2018, after its owner ‘absconded…[and] teachers and staff were left with one month’s unpaid wages’.

QQI communications manager Grainne Mooney told the Gazette: ‘the remit of QQI, as stated under its establishing legislation and as envisaged in the amended Bill… does not currently extend to the employment conditions of employees of the institutions with which we engage’.

The Bill ‘will require providers to be compliant with national legislation, including employment law. Alleged breaches of employment law come under the remit of the Workplace Relations Commission.’

David O’Grady, CEO of accredited language schools association Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) said, ‘It is part of MEI membership… that a school is compliant with all details of Irish legislation regarding taxation, health and safety, and employment law.’ He added that, ‘in the event of any individual feeling that their rights or entitlements are in any way infringed, then there are state mechanisms available to them to seek redress.’

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