Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Dozens of tutors gathered at the gates of Leinster House on Wednesday to call for public sector contracts and protest against “abusive” working conditions.
Such a move would mean adult education tutors getting paid during holiday periods so that they do not need to sign up for social welfare payments during the summer, Christmas and mid-term breaks.
The Labour Court recommended in 2020 that the government look at tutors’ claim.
As adult education tutors gathered outside the Dail building to protest, many of them said they were not being paid this week, which is a school mid-term.
“We’re all qualified professionals, dedicated, creative people,” adult education tutor Lorcan McNamee told the PA news agency.
“We’re teaching the most marginalised people in society, and we have no contracts.
“We’re laid off five times a year, we’re on the dole for the summer. A lot of people here have been teaching 15-20 years with no contract. It’s abusive.
“Right now, the first point of contact for the Ukrainian refugees is us because we are involved in teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and that’s taught by our literacy department, which is staffed by adult education tutors.
“We’ve been dealing with Syrian and Afghan refugees for years. But now we have tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. And we’re the ones who organise the English courses for them. We have huge waiting lists at the moment because we haven’t got enough teacher tutors because they can’t hire tutors, because the terms and conditions are so bad.”
“We work as teachers, but we’re paid as tutors,” Roisin Fitzmaurice from Cork city said.
“We don’t have a public servant contract although we do the same work as everybody else. We are public servants.
“That’s about three months in the summer, mid-terms, Easter, Christmas, and we’re all qualified teachers, so we have our qualifications, we’re are also registered with the Teaching Council but were paid an unqualified rate,” Susan Walsh from Sligo said.
“Our last pay is in July for June, and then we don’t get paid again until the middle of October.”
Ms Fitzmaurice and Ms Walsh both said that for the 20 hours a week that they’re in the classroom, there’s a further 15 hours at least where they are preparing for classes that they don’t get paid for.
“I’m over 20 years working with the Education and Training Board. And I do corrections, I set exams, I’m not paid for any of it. The amount of hours and unpaid work is absolutely ridiculous,” Grainne Brady from Longford said.
Karl Grant, who mostly teaches maths and basic computers, said that he has been teaching for 17 years.
“There’s absolutely no salary scale, we’re just treated as casual unqualified people who walk in off the streets,” he said.
“Whereas we need to have a whole skill sets to work with people from disadvantaged backgrounds; who are coming in with their own problems; who might have had a bad experience during their secondary school years or even earlier.
“Every hour I’m doing in the classroom, I’m doing at least 45 minutes to another hour preparation, correction, coordination, that type of thing.
“It is built into our wages, but for example now, I’m on the dole. Because of mid-term break – no classes, no pay.”
He added: “The big hypocrisy here is they announced a plan to get people back into adult learning. So there’s money being spent, but there’s nothing being spent on the people that are actually doing the work.”
Senator Annie Hoey has called on the Government to establish a fair pay scale for adult education tutors.
“There is a Labour Court recommendation sitting on the shelf and we are demanding that it is fully funded and implemented by the Government and their paymasters in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
“Adult education provides crucial scaffolding, not only to the individual but to the entire community,” the Labour spokesperson for further education said.
“This is no way to run a sector and leaves staff dreading term breaks as they know they will struggle financially.”