In another victory against a now-notorious wage-stealing language school, a London English teacher has won a four-figure wage theft settlement.
Before anyone gets too excited, this is not about the Leicester Square School of English – that campaign is still ongoing and actions are planned for the future. This story relates to an action that occurred last November, but could not be publicised until now for legal reasons.
The worker in question is the second employee to successfully speak up and fight back against the school's shady payment practices.
Three items were in question: wholly bogus and unpaid “training” lessons, lack of proper holiday accrual, and underpayment of preparation hours.
After joining a the IWW and hooking up with the Angry Language Brigade, the worker was joined by a dozen supporters – including a number of fellow TEFL workers – for a 'march on the boss'. In other words, the group, sporting hi-viz IWW vests, accompanied the worker into the school's central London office.
Upon arrival, the bosses made a swift retreat, physically holding the door shut behind them. Not to be sidelined, the crowd – accompanied by pan and ladle percussion – broke out into a rousing rendition of Solidarity Forever.
At this point, the group had to deal with the bosses' counter-response. First a little jobsworth suffering from an acute case of bosslust attempted to block the managers' door. And then, to no-one's surprise, the police arrived.
Undeterred, the aggrieved worker went to the office door, coolly and confidently saying her piece, and slipped the demand letter under the door.
Already feeling victorious, the crew retired to the pub for a well-deserved drink. An hour later, the worker received an email from the bosses saying, in short, that they'd meet all the demands.
However, the matter did not end there. While we’d won in principle, the bosses wanted the worker sign a gag order promising not to discuss the issue - fairly pointless considering the English Language Gazette had got a hold of the story in no time, but whatever.
So began weeks and weeks (and weeks) of back-and-forth over what the agreement would say, who would pay for the lawyer, what clauses were be to added or removed… In the end, the worker signed.
Now, here’s the beautiful part: as a result of the way the agreement was written – and keep in mind here, it’s the boss who pushed so hard for this agreement – the employer was obligated to pay the worker until the date the agreement was signed. The upshot? Another four figure payment on top of the initial settlement!
Oh, and that sycophantic little nob who attempted to block the bosses’ door. Guess who’s the new “assistant director”? 40 pieces of silver, eh?
The worker at the centre of the struggle had this to say, “While I'm overjoyed to get this money, I know many other former and current members of staff have also had money stolen from them by these unscrupulous employers. I hope my victory will make it easier for others to come forward challenge this school's wage-stealing ways.”
Her IWW rep backed up those sentiments:
“This is a fantastic result for the worker. It was undoubtedly down to the use of direct action and tough negotiations. The workplace at the centre of this issue thought they could treat people however they chose. We proved them wrong. This now sends out a reassuring message to workers in the English school community in London – we can and will protect you. I hope more people join the IWW as a result”.
A rousing, if slightly surreal video of the action is below. Watch it and get pumped! Thanks to the London IWW for their hard work bringing it together.
If you've been made to work unpaid as part of a bullsh*t training program or haven't received your proper holiday time, it's time to speak up! Don't hesitate to contact the ALB or the IWW to ensure you get what you get what you deserve.