London teachers get payout after direct action

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Protesters outside the South London offices of Evocation EFL

A group of EFL teachers at a Central London language school who were made redundant on 20 December have won an “enhanced redundancy package,” following direct action.

This kind of settlement is, “virtually unheard of in the language teaching industry,” according to Anna Clark, speaking for the TEFL Workers Union, which has represented teachers at the London branch of the Delfin School of English since 2018. TEFL Workers Union is a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World union.

Following a redundancy process, a total of nine teachers, eight of them represented by the union, were made redundant on 20 December, the day before the school closed for Christmas. According to the union, this represented all the teachers employed by the school. It is not clear whether any agency teachers were working at the school at that date.

Reasons given for teacher redundancies included a sharp decline in student numbers, financial difficulties and the necessity to move premises. It is clear from company accounts publicly available at Companies House that, like many London schools, Delfin, named a good value for money school in the last issue of the Gazette, has been under increasing financial pressure in the last two or three years (see market analysis on page 12).

Delfin re-opened in January, using classrooms temporarily rented in another Bloomsbury language school. The Gazette understands that the school is using temporary staff from employment agency Evocation EFL to teach at the school.

On 14 January, the Gazette attended a picket by some of the Delfin teachers and their supporters outside the South London offices of Evocation EFL. Banners on display at the picket bore the words “Evocation drop Delfin”.

At the picket, one teacher described to those present how everyone assumed TEFL teachers were on a gap year. “I’m 60,” he said, and despite being “ridiculously qualified,” still “one rung up from McDonald’s” in terms of pay and status.

Evocation told the Gazette that they had supplied teachers to Delfin since 2012 and, “have worked with them more regularly,” since January this year.

According to Martin Richards of Evocation EFL, the company did not know of the dispute until they were contacted on 14 January.

“We regret the circumstances of the dispute (as far as we have heard about these) but we do not consider that we are a party to it in any way,” he added.

The previous day, former Delfin teachers demonstrated outside the London branch of British Study Centres (BSC) in Bloomsbury to draw attention to Delfin’s use of teaching space there. Rooms were temporarily rented to Delfin while it waited to move to new accommodation. Simultaneous small protests were held outside other branches of BSC.

The Gazette is given to understand BSC management, “met with the protesters before contacting Delfin management with a request to resolve their industrial dispute or vacate the premises and offering to mediate between the two parties involved.”

Details of the claims made in this article were provided to Delfin management who declined to comment.

Image courtesy of MATT SALUSBURY
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Matt Salusbury
News editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also an activist in the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.