IWW (Ireland) reaches settlement with English teaching agency in the first case of its kind
Last week the IWW’s Ireland branch reached a settlement agreement with a major TEFL teaching recruitment agency based in Dublin, over a dispute dating back to a worker’s preference to receive the Irish government’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), instead of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), which they were initially enrolled on.
Due to the gig economy nature of the worker’s employment in the three months prior to the schemes, the worker stood to make over seven times less on the TWSS than what was provided on the PUP at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The PUP, the option for employees who had lost their job due to the pandemic, at the time provided a flat rate of 350e per week for those previously earning less than 200e per week.
Being put onto the TWSS meant that the worker was still employed with the company but that they only received 85% of their weekly take-home pay. Whilst the post-Christmas, January slump is a dreaded tradition in many industries, including hospitality TEFL and hospitality, the fellow worker in question had also been incapacitated for roughly two weeks with ill health in February. As no sick pay is granted for gig workers in Ireland, the loss of expected income, as well as a large portion of the medical bills, had to be absorbed by their savings.
Ryan McCready, the lead caseworker in the dispute, has said, “This is a monumental win for this fellow worker, as well as for all teachers in the gig-economy that is the modern TEFL industry.”
“Europe-wide, we have seen dedicated and hardworking TEFL teachers left at the back of the queue when times have gotten hard for the industry, especially during the pandemic. What this shows is that there is a union for these teachers in both Ireland and the UK and that we will fight back to reclaim the dignity we deserve and the rights we are entitled to.”
This is the first case taken by the Irish branch through which a fellow worker needed support in finding a resolution with an employer which allowed them to register for the PUP, switching from the TWSS, to reduce economic suffering during the pandemic.
The IWW’s TEFL workers are represented in the UK and Northern Ireland predominantly through the London branch, which has seen some spectacular wins in recent years, boasting an undefeated record when bringing cases within the industry to an Employment Tribunal (the UK & Northern Irish equivalent of the Workplace Relations Commission, a government body which resolves workplace disputes). The IWW is the only union within Ireland and the UK actively defending TEFL workers’ rights.
Most TEFL gig-work ceased around the middle of March last year with the introduction of the Level 5 lockdown. Only a small minority of schools opted to offer some form of compensatory online tuition to their enrolled students. During the summer months, the industry usually thrives. However, with students anxious or unable to enroll, TEFL teachers are losing substantial parts of their annual income.
The TWSS made way for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) at the end of August 2020. The PUP has since been cut to 203e per week for earning a post-tax income of 200e per week, the same offered on Jobseekers Benefit. Last year, the Irish government announced they had planned to cancel the PUP in April 2021, yet, as the pandemic rages on, the PUP remains an important means of state support.
With uncertain times ahead for the TEFL industry and Ireland’s economy more broadly, workers will need the backing of their union to ensure they can fight for a fairer Ireland, where financially vulnerable workers in the gig economy will not be left behind or considered an after-thought. The IWW wants to protect your rights, as well as to expand them further and give you the dignity at work you deserve.
If you need support at work, know of other fellow workers who do, or would just like to know more about what the IWW stands for and how to help, you can join here https://iww.org.uk/join/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.