An online English language teacher has been successful in claiming compensation from the British Council after she was hired by an employment agency and then abruptly dismissed from the role.
Supported by the TEFL workers’ union, the teacher, who is known publicly as Lara, was not told the reason for her dismissal in March 2021, despite “positive feedback during her time” there.
“Precarious work is widespread across the UK ELT schools,” Gabriella Cioce, the lead rep on the case, told The PIE News.
“This victory is the result of a collective effort. Lara, Tom [Liebewitz] and I would like to thank all the people who have contributed to achieving this victory by attending pickets, joining social media actions, setting up solidarity pickets, or doing mapping and research work,” she continued.
To begin with, the union reached out to Impellam, the agency that originally employed Lara, seeking “reinstatement and back pay” for her, which failed, and thus the pickets ensued outside the agency’s offices in London, Belfast and Sheffield.
A social media blitz to both Impellam and the British Council was also organised by union representatives.
In an announcement, Liebewitz, chairperson of the union’s steering committee, said they had given the agency “the opportunity to resolve” the dispute without a “public campaign”.
“Precarious work is widespread across the UK ELT schools”
“When good faith attempts at negotiation failed, we were left with no other option than to get out in the streets,” he explained.
The British Council declined to comment, citing all engagement with the individual was done through its temporary employment agency. Impellam also declined to comment when asked by The PIE.
Cioce told The PIE that this isn’t a unique case.
“The entire sector is so insecure that there might not be significant alternatives. Therefore, we advise teachers to join a trade union and organise to improve working conditions,” she said.
She also said that the British Council should be making the effort to provide in-house contracts.
“The British Council should stop hiding behind agencies and take full responsibility for all teachers’ working conditions and well-being. Teachers love their jobs and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Cioce added.