Around 60 adult education English teachers from more than 20 schools across Melbourne attended the first ever cross-school industry union meeting on 24 May. The event was organised by the Independent Education Union and socialist activists from several different Melbourne English schools.
The ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) sector is renowned for low wages and poor conditions, with the vast bulk of teachers on contracts earning as little as $25 an hour. Recently, workers at the largest international English language provider, Kaplan International, bucked the trend by fighting for and winning their first enterprise agreement, which secures significant improvements. Another school, Impact English College, has subsequently started negotiations after unionising from scratch.
The 24 May meeting was organised to reach out to teachers in an industry with very low union density. The atmosphere buzzed with both anger and purpose. The teachers at the meeting raised a variety of issues, but the common threads were low pay, high workloads, casualisation and insecure work.
The impressive attendance reflects that ESL teachers are fed up. Almost everyone present left their details to find out more about the union and how to organise their own workplace.