05 December, 2018 - Minister Mitchell O’Connor calls for stronger employment protections for teachers in the English language training sector

Speaking in the Seanad today the Minister for Higher Education, Minister Mitchell O’Connor highlighted that the situation at Grafton College Dublin, exposed weaknesses in the availability of fair terms and conditions of employment in areas of the English language training sector. 

Minister Mitchell O’Connor was speaking at Committee Stage of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill.

The objective of the legislation is to further strengthen the role of QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) as the regulator of quality assurance across further and higher education in Ireland.   

The proposed International Education Mark (IEM) is a key component of the Government’s policy for the English language training sector by providing a quality framework for the provision of education to international learners travelling to Ireland to learn English. 

The Minister stated, “I want an English language education sector that we have confidence in and which provides a quality education to students coming to Ireland to learn English. Those working in it are integral to the quality of that provision. 

“No-one want to see English language teachers not being paid or being deprived of their employment rights. The situation that has emerged at Grafton College where teachers have been left without salaries is completely unacceptable.” 

Speaking in the Seanad the Minister said

“The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act, 2015, provides for a Registered Employment Agreement (REA) to be developed and registered with the Labour Court in order to regulate the pay and conditions of employment of workers specified in the agreement. 

“I am committing today to appoint an experienced mediator who would meet with bodies representing employers and employees in the English language education sector to explore the potential for a Registered Employment Agreement to be developed for workers in the English language sector. I will be looking to commence this process as soon as possible. 

“The value of getting a conciliator or mediator to look into engaging with the language school employers and unions is that either they can reach an agreement (REA) covering enough of the sector to become the de facto standard for the sector. 

“This development will complement the provisions contained in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill that are intended to strengthen QQI’s role as a regulator of quality in the English language training sector.” 

ENDS 

Notes for Editors 

A Registered Employment Agreement (REA) is a collective agreement between a trade union(s) and employer(s) on the pay or conditions of specified workers, which is registered with the Labour Court. The effect of registration with the Labour Court makes the REA binding on the subscribing parties.   

REAs operate at the organisational level, where an employer and employees can reach agreement on terms and conditions and register it with the Labour Court.  It is then legally binding and enforceable within that employment.  It does not have sector-wide force, but if enough employers in a given sector register REAs they can begin to have a de facto effect on the sector.