“I don’t want to feel terrified about losing my job because of saying something a manager doesn’t agree with – especially now I am pregnant.”
The British Council is probably the single largest player in the global language teaching industry. On top of running its own schools and accrediting other schools, the BC also runs onlines classes and hosts online IELTS exams.
While the BC is ostensibly a charity, its online workers are all employed by for-profit outsourcing (“payroll”) agencies.
The stories our union has heard from these online workers have been harrowing and, at times, heartbreaking. Workers report being forced to get up in the middle of the night just to book available teaching hours. There’s a constant complaint that when workers raise concerns they’re shuffled back and forth between the BC and their agency, with neither wanting to take responsibility.
“I believe the system of guaranteed teaching hours should be reinstated and decisions to cancel arrangements like this should not be made without consultation or full explanation.”
The problems faced by these workers aren’t individual. It’s a matter of a company culture that fails to respect the time, mental health, and financial security of staff.
Our union wants to change that. We want to hold the BC to account and demand that management begin treating staff with the dignity and respect they deserve. It’s time for the BC to stop hiding behind employment agencies.
But that can only be achieved by BC workers sticking together and speaking out. Below we’ve collected comments from teachers and examiners about the issues they face on the job.
If you work for the BC, read through them. We expect they’ll sound all-too-familiar.
“I’d like the management to acknowledge and respect what has made English Online such a successful and profitable business and keeps them in their secure, well-paid posts: the teachers.”
For you to share your thoughts, we’ve created a confidential form which is available below:
You don’t need to share your name or email address and any information you do share will be kept private unless you tell us otherwise.
If you’d prefer to reach out to the union directly to see what we’ve been doing to support BC staff, email firstname.lastname@example.org
What British Council staff have told us:
I want to have guaranteed hours like I used to.
I’d like to be able to have regular classes with students who want to study with me.
I’d like to receive a wage commensurate with my skills and experience.
I’d like to be valued.
I’d like to have job security.
Teachers should be able to speak up without being dismissed without warning. This damages student experience as well as being unfair.
I’d like to have a pay rise that reflects the cost of living in my country as well as my years of experience.
I’d like regular pay rises.
I’d like my base salary to be above the bare minimum wage.
I’d like to be able to speak freely on TEAMS and not be absolutely censured for fear of being made redundant.
I’d like to have management that is accountable.
I’d like management’s decisions to be transparent.
I’d like the teachers who were unfairly laid off to return to their jobs.
I’d like appreciation for what I do.
I’d like paid vacation time.
I’d like paid sick and personal days.
I’d like a bonus once a year based on student feedback.
I’d like to be paid for preparation time and for the time it takes to read messages and updates on TEAMS.
I’d like English Online to work according to the British Council’s EDI principles instead of actively working in stark contrast against them.
I’d like the opinions of teachers to build a better working environment to be encouraged and heard not dismissed and forcibly silenced.
I’d like the management team to have enough faith in their own capabilities and conduct to not terminate the employment of those who question them.
I’d like those paid to timetable and schedule our classes to do just that; timetable and schedule our classes.
I’d like to be paid correctly for the time I work and not be given tasks that take far longer than BC is happy to pay for.
I’d like to be able to speak freely to TQMs about any problems I might have without the feeling that I will get fired.
I can’t have regular students because the booking system is so bad.
I’d like to be employed directly by the British Council, and not through an agency. A cowardly practice, with no accountability.
I’d like managers to follow British Council principles and not just speak about them in a hollow, hypocritical manner. They speak about transparency and then post messages such as; “we’ll give you information on a need to know basis”.
I’d like to know who is the line manager of each individual manager. That’s another example of transparency.
I’d like managers to know that students are not stupid, and that they find out themselves when teachers are being treated badly. When that happens, most students leave. Basic rule of marketing – one unhappy customer will tell 10 others (existing or potential) about their negative experience. Most happy customers will only tell one or two. If you want your business to grow, take care of your teachers, even if it’s only for marketing reasons and you don’t actually care about them. Simple maths.
I would like a wage that truly reflects my experience and worth. It makes me sad that such a big corporation doesn’t seem to respect me enough to do this. Students are paying higher fees, why isn’t this mirrored in staff wages?