It was good to take part in Wednesday’s EFL chat on workplace conditions, but it was short notice and my battery ran out on the train (delayed for an hour and a half with no air conditioning on the hottest day of the year!)
— Matthew Noble (@tesolmatthew) July 5, 2017
What emerged from the discussion was a growing consensus that workplace conditions need to be taken seriously at an international level. While there are obvious local differences that shouldn’t be overlooked, there are also common concerns that teachers experience across contexts.
The TEFL industry operates on a transnational scale, with globally recognised qualifications (CELTA/DELTA), exams (IELTS/TOEFL) and standardised curricula (often in the form of coursebooks) that transcend national borders. We also, in general, experience poor pay and precarious contracts despite the stable and enduring demand for the English language.
Intl unions are a pipe dream. Can’t happen across diff governments. Ts unionise at a particular school, maybe. Has happened here.
— Tyson Seburn (@seburnt) July 6, 2017
Collective bargaining does occur at school level (employees enter into agreement with their employers), but unions work at larger levels, engaging in policy making at regional, national and international levels. There’s also no reason why there can’t be an international teachers’ organisation with members joining local unions with local arrangements … that sounds pretty good to me.
I think that it is time, and there is appetite for, a formal transnational teachers’ association, which unlike IATEFL would organise around workplace rights and use various legal and employment instruments to achieve better conditions. One model may be to look at how @ELTadvocacy in Dublin have organised locally and scale this up in order to organise across countries, sharing advice and solidarity along the way. A transnational teachers’ organisation would have a seat at the top table of the big TEFL events, such as IATEFL and TESOL asserting our presence within the industry. We could also use our collective bargaining power to provide ourselves with access to services such as pensions/financial advice, legal advice or counselling services (which all workers could benefit from). This is currently absent in the TEFL industry.