Saturday, January 18, 2020

Support Delfin Teachers!

By New Worker correspondent

It is not just the big unions that are leading class struggle. At the Delfin English Language School in leafy Bloomsbury Square near the British Museum, a small band of teachers are fighting back.
Just before Christmas all staff at the private college that teaches English as a foreign language were made redundant. Ten teachers, many of whom had been loyal employees for several years, were given the news on 20 December after the close of business. Most are members of the TEFL Workers’ Union, a street union set up by the anarchist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) movement last year to represent workers in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry.
They say this is Management pay-back for a series of victories won by the union in August. This action secured paid sick days, paid training sessions and the promise of an end to zero-hour contracts, and even proper contracts. Earlier last year managers had tried to divide the workforce by offering various pay rises on condition of confidentiality.
After some improvements a new owner arrived and promptly broke their promise to end zero-hour contracts.
Teachers started taking low-level actions at work that culminated in a “plan-in”. On one occasion 10 out of the 12 teachers arrived at work on time but spent the first hour in the staff room planning their lessons as a group. But management still refused to reinstate the offer of guaranteed-hours contracts and began disciplinary action against eight of the workers, and continue to refuse to pay staff for time spent planning and preparing lessons.
IWW organiser Anna Clark said: “Last minute school closures and Christmas time redundancies are all-too-common in this industry. It’s heartening to see the Delfin teachers take a stand and fight back. They have the full support of the union.”
Redundancy normally means the employee’s job role is no longer needed by the company. Since school re-opened after the Christmas break, however, Delfin has employed teachers from the Evocation cover agency to do the exact same work.
One of the teachers had this to say: “We’re in a state of shock. We work hard and we like our jobs. The way we were treated – a five-day redundancy process, getting sacked the Friday before Christmas – it feels incredibly disrespectful.”
Another added that: “This is the culmination of years of mistreatment from senior management, who have repeatedly broken promises, backtracked, threatened, abused and ultimately ignored us, and finally dumped us in this most callous way – I’m disgusted at them.”
IWW says it will be take Delfin to an employment tribunal unless the school begins negotiating over the redundancies.
This is typical of the industry. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a dodgy business. Those with the grandest names are often a couple of rooms above a kebab shop and the standard of English taught is not always of a high standard. Employing migrant workers whose immigration papers may not be in order in back-room roles and students desperate to pay off their student debt makes it easy for bosses to exploit.
The TEFL Workers’ Union has claimed a number of successes in London. At TEFL schools across London, it has helped a group of teachers claim holiday pay unlawfully denied to them, won thousands of pounds for a teacher forced to undertake bogus ‘teacher training’ classes, won a pay-out for a receptionist who was unfairly dismissed, won thousands of pounds in unpaid wages for a group of teachers when their school unexpectedly closed down, and guided a group of teachers through a collective grievance in order to challenge discrimination.
It hopes to establish a ‘TEFL charter’ that outlines a minimum standard of pay and conditions and demand that all London schools finally provide decent working conditions to all staff. Plans to expand beyond London are afoot.

No to Trump and No to War!

By New Worker correspondent
 Londoners braved the cold weather on Saturday to attend Stop the War’s march against war on Iran. Although there were only a few hundred on the march from BBC headquarters to Trafalgar Square, plenty more came to hear Jeremy Corbyn, Tariq Ali and Steve Hedley speak at the rally at the end of the protest.
Jeremy Corbyn took the rostrum to the usual chorus of “ooh Jeremy Corbyn” from the crowd now several thousand strong. The retiring Labour leader referred to the tragic incident of the Ukrainian airliner downed in error by the Iranians, who mistook it for a hostile US aircraft.
This was a product of war, Corbyn said: “Today, let's recognise the horror that the families of those that died in the airliner travelling from Tehran to the Ukraine are suffering from now.”
The tragedy, which claimed the lives of all passengers and crew, was an “appalling act and part of a wide pattern of appalling acts all across the region”.
“There's no excuse for shooting down an airliner, there's no excuse for a targeted assassination by one state against another,” Corbyn said.
“Let’s be clear, there can be no excuses here. Let’s also recognise that that event and the events of the last few days and weeks have consequences.
“When big powers act illegally, when people step outside the norms of international law, there are consequences.
“All this does is set off a spiral of violence and danger which will lead us to yet more wars in the future.”
But probably the best speaker of all was Steve Hedley, a senior full-timer in the RMT transport union, who called Trump a draft dodger and said that if the likes of Trump had to actually fight in a war then there would not be any war. He then finished with the rousing call of “No war but the class war!”.

Warm welcome for KKE leader in London

By New Worker correspondent

AKEL’s community centre in Wood Green was packed out on Saturday as London comrades joined members of London’s Greek community at a social at the Cypriot communist centre in honour of visiting Greek communist leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas. Many had gone to listen to the Greek communist leader give a talk at Birkbeck College in central London earlier in the day. Many more came along for the evening reception, which included live Greek folk music and jazz as well as a Greek buffet and bar.
Dimitris Koutsoumbas, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), spent a hectic three days in London visiting the Marx Memorial Library on Friday and Marx’s tomb at Highgate Cemetery on Sunday.
Koutsoumbas said: "The instruction of Karl Marx that 'the philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world, the point is to change it', which was the meaning of his teaching's revolutionary character, is the timeless message that exists today and illuminates the future for the new generations, for the world's working class."
Accompanied by numerous members of the British branches of the KKE and the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), Koutsoumbas laid a wreath on Marx’s grave on behalf of the Party. With their fists raised, the Greek communists shouted "KKE, the people's party" and "A century of struggles and sacrifices, the KKE in the vanguard".

Monday, January 13, 2020

Nice job if you can get it…

by New Worker correspondent

Last Monday saw the full resumption of the working routine after the Christmas and New Year holidays. But by five o’clock on the evening of January 6th  Britain’s top 100 bosses had already ‘earned’ the average worker’s entire 2020 pay on the assumption that they had done so by just three days work.
This extraordinary figure comes from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the trade body for the Human Resources (HR) profession. HR staff are not particularly known for having revolutionary tendencies.
Their calculation for ‘High Pay Day’ is based on data and analysis that shows top bosses earn 117 times the annual pay of the average worker, and in 2018 the average FTSE 100 CEO earned £3.46 million, equivalent to £901.30 per hour. The minimum wage is presently £8.21 per hour and, in comparison, the average (median) full-time worker took home an annual salary of £29,559 in 2018, equivalent to £14.37 per hour.
The CIPD added that high pay will be a key issue because this is the first year that publicly listed firms with more than 250 UK employees must disclose in their annual reports the ratio between CEO pay and the pay of their average worker.
Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, respectfully warned the bosses they work for that: “This is the first year where businesses are really being held to account on executive pay. Pay ratio reporting will rightly increase scrutiny on pay and reward practices, but reporting the numbers is just the start,” adding that: “We need businesses to step up and justify very high levels of pay for top executives, particularly in relation to how the rest of the workforce is being rewarded.” It will be interesting to see what tales the bosses come up with.
Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, chipped in with a similar tone, saying: “How major employers distribute pay across different levels of the organisation plays an important role in determining living standards. CEOs are paid extraordinarily highly compared to the wider workforce, helping to make the UK one of the most unequal countries in Europe,” before piously hoping that: “New reporting requirements mean that publicly listed firms will have to be more transparent over how and why they reward their CEOs relative to the wider workforce. Hopefully this will lead to a more sensible balance between those at the top and everyone else.”
It is more likely that when the first figures are produced there will be few headlines, trade union general secretaries will express outrage, any boss shamed will simply compare himself with an overpaid drunken professional footballer and everything will carry on as normal.