The Angry Language Brigade and the London IWW have officially ended their dispute with the Leicester Square School of English and its wage-stealing owner, Craig Tallents.
Ultimately, we were forced to go down the legal route. That means that IWW members at LSSE only got the legal minimum, despite our belief that the callous mistreatment we suffered while at the school entitled us to further compensation. In any case, we got more than Craig had ever planned to give us.
We're proud to say that in our effort to make Craig pay up, the workers ran militant and well-organised campaign. We occupied the school. We forced Craig to resign as a governor of the Bancroft School and to shut down the website of another one of his business interests, Asparagus Consulting. We hassled him at his residents' association. We held numerous pickets and protests in Leicester Square and at the Drapers' Guild, where Craig is a member of some note – actions which did not go unnoticed by senior officers of the organisation.
To any other workers who may ever have the misfortune to work for Craig, we have a message for you: if he mistreats you in any way, you've got the support of the Angry Language Brigade and the IWW. It doesn't matter if you're a language school worker or not; if Craig's your boss, we got your back.
And let this be a message to any future would-be business partners: Craig Tallents is a toxic asset. Besides his consistently underhanded business practices, he's got two organisations who are ready and willing to picket and protest anywhere he sets up shop.
Jon Bigger, the IWW caseworker who helped the workers, said “this case was a good example of a boss trying to hide when the going got tough. Future workers and business partners of Craig Tallents will no doubt take note of his actions. Bosses should take note of ours.”
For those who've followed the dispute, one of the key issues was that Craig had illegally and intentionally misclassified a number of teachers as self-employed. This meant that when Craig shut down the school, he thought he could do so without paying those teachers thousands of pounds in holiday and notice pay.
The good news is that if you've been misclassified – a major problem in language schools – you have recourse. Raise it collectively with your workmates or contact HMRC who can contact your employer to make them sort out their records and pay you any back pay to which you may be entitled. HMRC can be contacted anonymously, but it's probably best if you have someone like a union rep call on your behalf.
If, as in this case, the school has shut up shop, you can still claim for redundancy, notice pay, holidays, and any unpaid wages through the UK Insolvency Service – but, be warned, they don't make it easy.
If you're dealing with the Insolvency Service, get help from your union – ideally the IWW – and be prepared to make a lot of phone calls and send a lot of angry letters. As always, the best defence is a good offence. If we want to make sure we're getting everything we're entitled to, don't wait until trouble starts. We should already be reading our contracts, getting clued-up on labour legislation and, most importantly, sticking with our co-workers.
If you want help with that last bit, don't hesitate to contact the Angry Language Brigade. After all, as language workers, if we don't have each others' backs, no one else will.