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Ireland to regulate EFL teachers’ pay

The Irish government is set to introduce a Joint Labor Council (JLC) for the English language sector which will regulate teachers’ terms and conditions, according to Unite, the Union which represents EFL teachers in the Republic. 

Demand for wage regulation in the sector came to a head in 2018 when Grafton College, Dublin, closed suddenly, one of a number snap closures of EFL schools in recent years. Although student fees were protected under existing legislation, teachers’ salaries were not and newspaper photos of a young teaching couple, recently married and expecting the birth of their first child that Christmas, went viral, with politicians lobbying the government for action in support of the staff.

“The establishment of the Joint Labour Committee governing the English language teaching sector is a tribute to the hard work of Unite members who were determined not only to improve their own terms of employment, but also to ensure the sustainability of this vital sector going forward. Unite will be engaging fully in the JLC to secure the best possible terms and conditions for English language teachers,”  Unite’s Brendan Byrne explains. 

Ireland will be the second major EFL destination to have a national agreement or Employment Regulation Order. Australia has had such a sector-based wages system for its EFL, or ELICOS, centres since at least 1989. Despite the fact that current Australian hourly rates for English language teachers are roughly 65% more than those in Ireland, this has not made Australia less attractive to international students. Indeed, Australia’s language schools are currently seeing post-pandemic enrolments surge faster than the rest of the country’s international education sector.

Ireland is following Australia’s lead in another respect. This year the country’s new accreditation framework, the International Education Quality Mark, is to be introduced some eight years since it was first announced. Much to the annoyance of some language school owners, the government is proposing a student protection scheme based on Australia’s Tuition Protection Scheme which requires schools to pay into a central scheme. 

School owners argue this could make them uncompetitive internationally and will doubtless say the same about a national agreement for teachers’ terms and conditions. Yet the Irish Industry already generates more income for its economy: €2 billion (£1.7 million) in 2019, according to Unite. Its major competitors, Australia, a country with a population five times its size, reported a value of around €1.3 billion in 2019, and the UK, more than 12 times larger, reported1.7 billion. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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