ELICOS Teachers Doing The Hard Yards

V9N3 - July 2019

Every year about 1.3 million people travel to an English-speaking country to learn English and the global industry is worth over 12 billion dollars. Australia is ranked third as a destination, with its share of the market estimated at 15%. Victoria has a 32% share of Australia’s international student enrolments. For those English language teachers working in the sector however, the industry is a tough one.

There are very few Agreements providing protection, due mainly to very high rates of insecure employment and high staff turnover. Wage rates are well below those of teachers working in the mainstream education setting. Union membership is predictably low in the vast majority of English Language Colleges (ELICOS).

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Sixty ELICOS teachers turned out last month on a Friday night to an IEU get-together initiated and mostly organised by our IEU reps at Kaplan, Impact and EC English, three ELICOS colleges. The meeting included more than twenty non-members – many of whom have now joined the IEU.

There were presentations from the IEU reps and IEU staff around key issues in ELICOS colleges, and strategies for organising to tackle them. The personal stories about reps and teachers taking a stand in their workplace were inspiring and demonstrated that even in this difficult sector, success is achievable.

At EC English, Kaplan and Impact IEU members have won wage rises ranging between 5 and 20% above the Award, as well as increased job security, consultation, extra leave entitlements and a range of other benefits. Teachers can apply to convert to ongoing secure jobs after 12 months service. Importantly, the union has provided a platform in bargaining where teachers can be heard and respected at work on issues ranging from workload issues, professional development, to ensuring clean toilets for staff use.

The IEU has also been successful in having a clause inserted into the ELICOS Award (Post-secondary Education Award) that allows casual teachers to request conversion to ongoing employment after 12 months. The request can only be rejected on reasonable grounds where the position is genuinely casual. This development should assist ELICOS teachers to achieve better job security and allow the IEU more capacity to organise and negotiate Collective Agreements in the sector.

Our next steps are setting up meetings college by college with teachers, electing IEU reps, identifying issues and building support. Another ELICOS get together is planned for Saturday 10 August at South Melbourne coinciding with Council.