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Row over English teachers’ pay in Ireland

Unite, a union which represents English language teachers, among other sectors, in the UK and Ireland has challenged Marketing English in Ireland to respond to claims that many English language teachers in the country are paid below the living wage of €11.70 per hour.

Dublin, MEI, Unite, ELT, IrelandDublin-based Marketing English in Ireland say concerns about pay should be directed to government. Photo: flickr/Giuseppe Milo

“Workers with complaints should take their case to the structures of the state”

CEO of MEI, David O’Grady, however, has told The PIE News that not only does he not recognise the claim, MEI is not a regulatory body and were not made aware of the challenge by Unite.

The union’s claim rests on what it terms “analysis of the institute’s own data”. However, the data cited does not mention individual pay. Instead it references the number of teachers in MEI member schools, and the approximate gross wage bill. It should also be noted that MEI is not an institute, but a membership organisation.

“If they can name a school that is paying under the living wage: let them”

Unite’s claim goes on to argue that unpaid non-contact hours along with PRSI (social insurance) contributions mean that those on an hourly wage of €12.73 have a take-home packet of only €11.49 (€0.21 short of the Irish living wage). The adult minimum wage in the Republic of Ireland is €9.25. There is no suggestion that MEI schools are breaking the law.

Unite regional organiser for the Republic of Ireland Roy Hassey, commented that these calculations amount to an admission from MEI that ‘poverty pay’ is rife in the sector.

“One thing is clear: on the MEI’s own admission, the English language teaching sector is built on poverty pay,” he said.

Responding to the challenge presented by Unite, O’Grady told The PIE News that the only regulator in the sector is the Irish government, and that MEI was not responsible for teachers’ pay.

“We don’t employ any teachers… but it is part of our membership rules that member schools must comply with national legislation”, he said. O’Grady added that “workers with complaints should go through the usual routes and take their case to the structures of the state”.

O’Grady countered the claims that language schools in Ireland are underpaying their staff by throwing the challenge back to Unite.

“If they can name a school that is paying under the living wage: let them”.

In June, Unite briefed the Irish parliament on issues faced by English language teachers, and asked education minister Richard Bruton to consider tighter regulations.

Responding to a question from a fellow parliamentarian earlier this year, Bruton said the private agreement between schools and their staff was not under his remit.

“The relationship between teachers and private providers of education is based on a private contract, and issues relating to working conditions are a matter between the two parties and do not come under the remit of my department,” he said.

He added that staff concerned about their terms and conditions should contact the Workplace Relations Commission.

Unite did not respond to requests for further comment from The PIE News.

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