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Ireland plan to safeguard job rules in ELT

The Irish government has established a Joint Labour Committee to address many of the employment-related issues that have harmed the reputation of the English language education sector in recent times.

The JLC will help to ensure that Ireland’s reputation as a quality learning destination for international students is not undermined by poor employment practices. Photo: Leighton Smith

JLCs provide a wage-setting mechanism that determines terms and conditions of employment

The move follows recommendations made earlier this year as part of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance bill.

Minister for trade, employment, business, EU digital single market and data protection, Pat Breen, said he had formally accepted the recommendation of the Labour Court and signed an establishment order to come into effect as of December 2, 2019.

JLCs provide a wage-setting mechanism that determines terms and conditions of employment, as well as setting minimum rates of pay for workers in certain sectors.

“I would encourage bodies…  in this sector to engage with the JLC process”

According to Unite – the union which represents English language teachers throughout Ireland – the announcement follows a sustained campaign following several high-profile college closures and concerns about the sustainability of a sector “characterised by poor working conditions”.

“Unite looks forward to engaging within the framework of the JLC process… and ensuring that Ireland’s reputation as a quality learning destination for international students is not undermined by poor employment practices,” Unite regional officer Brendan Byrne said in a statement.

Minister of state for higher education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said she is “extremely supportive” of the establishment of a JLC, with a view to the issuing of an Employment Regulation Order for the sector.

“The relationship between strengthening employment standards for teachers and staff working in this sector and enhancing Ireland’s considerable reputation as a quality learning destination for international students was strongly highlighted in the debates… on the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Act 2019.

“I would encourage bodies representing both employers and employees in this sector to engage with the JLC process. This can guarantee Ireland as a premier destination for English language education,” Mitchell O’Connor added.

However, in an email to The PIE News, a spokesperson for Marketing English in Ireland said its board regard this as a “particularly disingenuous exhortation” from the junior minister as each of three letters sent to her requesting engagement on the JLC proposition remains “unacknowledged and unanswered”.

“The Board of MEI is disappointed to have learned of minister of state Breen’s decision through contact from a journalist,” the spokesperson wrote.

 “The MEI Board will consult with its members… before adopting a definite position”

“This is against the background of a promise in a letter of October 24 from minister Breen advising that his department officials would meet with MEI representatives in advance of him progressing legislation in respect of the proposal to establish a Joint Labour Committee in the English language teaching sector.

“It is also in the context of MEI having made a comprehensive submission to the Labour Court inquiry re the proposal for a JLC on October 4, 2019,” the email continued.

“The MEI Board will consult with its members, who are the largest representative group of employers in the ELT sector, at a general meeting scheduled for December 18 next before adopting a definite position in respect of the Establishment Order in respect of a JLC,” it concluded.

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