Having already occupied their school, staff at the Leicester Square School of English are organising a picket this Saturday, 17th of January. Here's why.
Since the Christmas holidays, workers at the Leicester Square School of English have been in a major wage theft dispute with the school and its owner, Craig Tallents. Both the Angry Language Brigade and the IWW have been organising the dispute.
Over the Christmas break, staff at the Leicester Square School of English received a nasty surprise: the school was permanently shutting down. Or, to be more precise, one teacher received a letter informing her the school was shutting down. The other two teachers – who were on illegal self-employed contracts – didn't get as much as an email or a phone call, nevermind a letter.
The result is that these three did not receive any statutory notice pay and, as a consequence of their being on illegal contracts, had received no statutory holiday pay either. In addition, two other former employees are owed a substantial sum of money for unpaid wages and unpaid paternity leave.
The aggrieved teachers responded quickly by organising an occupation of the school, which they quickly discovered had been gutted by management: phone cords cut, computer hard drives removed, and files shredded. Staff also discovered that LSSE owed money to many other people, in particular a cleaner who had received no wages for three months and several host families left unpaid for accommodation provided to students.
During the occupation, staff managed to track down the owner of the school, Craig Tallents. When they put forward their grievance, a audibly shaken Craig told them, “Companies go out of business all the time, that's capitalism.”
The following day, the workers of LSSE received their next big surprise. As they'd been occupying the school over the weekend, staff were present when a dozen students arrived on the Monday morning expecting lessons as usual. Worse still, a number of students had arrived in London that weekend. The school told them to arrive at school on Monday morning and the accommodation – which they'd already paid for – would be arranged.
Had it not been for the occupying teachers, Craig Tallents and the management of the Leicester Square School of English would have literally left these vulnerable students out in the cold. The response of one - “Why did they steal our money? You must to call the police.” - sums up the shock, distress and anger caused by this flagrant violation of moral and social responsibility.
Filled with a righteous anger over the treatment of their students, the staff moved forward with the next stage in their campaign. Knowing the owner of LSSE, one Craig Tallents, was also a governor at the posh Bancroft's school in Essex, staff requested supporters email the school and post messages on the school's Facebook page politely informing the school of Craig's shady, immoral actions.
Victory was quick and fast: within hours Craig had resigned as governor!
At this point the workers, acting through their IWW representative, reached out to Craig to negotiate. A phone call was made and a deadline given. Craig – in what can only be described as an act of breathtaking stupidity – ignored it. The campaign continued.
Staff had done their research. They knew Craig has other business interests, not the least of which includes the bizarre and almost comical Asparagus Management Consulting. A “communications blockade” was quickly organised. Again, scores of supporters bombarded Asparagus' website and Twitter feed demanding Craig pay his staff.
Victory #2 was quick in coming: The website of Asparagus Consulting went “under construction” within hours of the blockade beginning.
So, that's where we are now. And we have a message for you Craig: this isn't over yet.
There's a picket planned for this Saturday the 17th. It begins at 11:30am in Leicester Square. Look for the banners.
So what can supporters do?
1) Post messages of solidarity on your organisation's websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds.
2) Come to Saturday's picket!
3) Tweet the following message:
@AskAsparagus Craig Tallents, pay up! No liquidators - deal directly with your staff #CraigTallentsPayYourStaff
For any other language teaching workers – not just in London and not just teachers – if you're facing anything from a bullying boss to unpaid wages, don't hesitate to contact the Angry Language Brigade. It's only when we stick together and support each other that we can beat back the Craig Tallentses of this world: