Wednesday 26 June 2019

Teachers left without salaries after snap closure of Grafton College, union says

A meeting between management and teachers has taken place to discuss the abrupt closure of the school in Portobello.

Marketing English In Ireland has said arrangements will be made to ensure all students can complete their studies (Ben Birchall/PA)
Marketing English In Ireland has said arrangements will be made to ensure all students can complete their studies (Ben Birchall/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

More than 20 teachers have been told they will not be paid their salaries following the snap closure of a Dublin English-language school, a trade union has claimed.

Grafton College did not open as expected on Monday leaving students and teachers in limbo in the lead up to Christmas.

A meeting between management and teachers took place on Monday morning to discuss the abrupt closure of the school in Portobello.

Unite said 23 teachers, of which many are union members, have been left unpaid and more than 500 international students have been affected.

Regional organiser Roy Hassey said: “It’s official the school is closing.”

“Teachers were told [at the meeting] that the school is closing and that a liquidator is going to be appointed,” he said.

Mr Hassey added: “Teachers were told by one of the directors of the college that they will not be paid the month’s salary that they are owed.”

The issue came to light on Saturday when teachers contacted Unite to say that they had not been paid their monthly salary on Friday.

A protest took place outside the school on Monday evening demanding the protection of teachers’ rights.

It's horrendous, I don't know what we're going to do Affected teacher, Robert Dunlop

The teachers occupied the Portobello premises demanding that Education and Skills Minister Joe McHugh visit the college and speak to staff.

The union is calling for a commitment from the owners and the directors that the staff will be paid what’s owed to them.

Robert Dunlop, one of the teachers affected, said that he had got married on Saturday and now he was without a job.

His wife Gisela is due with their first child at the end of December.

“It’s horrendous, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Mr Dunlop said.

A message posted on the Grafton College Facebook page said teachers had been “overwhelmed” by the level of support from the students.

“Thank you so much for all your kind words, hugs and tears,” it read.

“We’re all in shock at the sudden closure of the school.”

Students have said that they paid fees of up to 2,000 euro to study at the college.

It’s expected that they will be able to finish their courses at other colleges.

In a statement Marketing English In Ireland (MEI), which represents accredited English-language colleges in Ireland, said management of Grafton College had informed them of trading difficulties at the college and the likely impact on students.

In the event of a closure of an MEI school, it is common practice for other MEI schools to offer places to displaced students to ensure they can complete their studies.

“Arrangements will be put in place by MEI to ensure all students are enabled to complete their studies,” the statement read.

Mr Hassey added that the closure reinforced the need for legislation to protect the interests of both teachers and students in the highly-profitable English language sector.

Proposed legislation aimed at ensuring compliance with minimum labour standards is making its way through the Oireachtas.

It’s expected to be debated in the Seanad on Wednesday.

“It is not in the interests of teachers, students or the wider economy that rogue employers be allowed to continue operating in the English language teaching sector,” he said.

“I would appeal to all Senators to look at what is happening in Portobello and support amendments designed to ensure minimum employment standards for English language teachers,” he said.

“This legislation, with the amendments, needs to be fast-tracked in the interests of the sector as a whole,” Mr Hassey concluded.

Attempts to contact Grafton College on Monday were not successful.

Press Association

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