Industrial Workers of the World
TEFL Workers’ Union
tefl [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk – c/o 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8th February, 2021
Union takes multinational Kaplan language school to tribunal in case challenging precarious employment
The TEFL Workers’ Union (a section of the Industrial Workers of the World) has filed for a tribunal to support English language teachers who suffered financial loss as a result of Kaplan’s use of rolling fixed term contracts. The case results from the redundancy process Kaplan undertook in Autumn 2020. The union maintains that workers with less than three years of service were underpaid redundancy.
According to lead IWW caseworker, Aaron Smith:
“These courageous workers are simply standing up for their basic legal entitlement. In addition, the fact we even have to take this matter to tribunal is a sad reflection on the state of the English teaching industry.”
Likewise, a former Kaplan teacher explained:
“When I signed that contract, nobody told me I was being fired to be rehired in a week or two. It was just presented to me as a formality.
“Anyone who has been working in the industry long enough is aware of stories about, for instance, teachers who lost teaching hours for even questioning these practices.
“I have been tremendously encouraged to learn as a result of the pressure that we are exerting, Kaplan has actually moved people still employed there onto permanent contracts.
“In addition, our goal in pursuing this is to ensure that Kaplan will not be able to backslide on these commitments once the present storm has blown over.”
IWW caseworker Aaron Smith stressed this case has the potential to set a precedent that could challenge fixed-term contracts across the industry:
“For too long, the English language teaching industry has gotten away with offering less than the statutory minimum.
“We’ve already had success winning proper redundancy pay for workers in other schools. Above all, we’re here to hold Kaplan to account in the same way.”
Notes to editors:
TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
Kaplan International used rolling fixed-term contracts for hourly paid teaching staff. The union maintains this strategy results in a loss of redundancy and furlough pay as only the start of the most recent contract is relevant for payment assessment.
Kaplan International accepted permanent employee status for workers with four or more years of service. The union maintains all Kaplan’s fixed-term contracts constitute “umbrella” or “overarching” agreements that do not break continuous service.
The English language teaching industry is notorious for precarious contracts: zero-hours, fixed-term, lack of sick pay and paid preparation time.
Kaplan International is a global operator with schools in 25 locations across the world. It is part of the U.S. corporation Graham Holdings, former ownwers of Washingston Post, currently valued at $2.8 billion (£2bn).
The TEFL Workers’ Union is part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an independent trade union formed in 1905. However, it is the only union actively organising within the UK’s £1.4bn English language teaching industry.
Press Contact: Aaron Smith
Email: tefl [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk