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Should there be an International schools union?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by magikdragon, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. Time and time again I hear colleagues say things like 'keep your head down, don't rattle any cages and you will be fine' being the way to get along in International school jobs. But why should teachers live their professional lives in this 'watch your back' way? Does anyone on here agree that it is high time that teachers in International schools had some Union representation? I don't see why it cannot be possible as there are professional accreditation organisations that monitor standards in International schools. So why not an organisation that monitors the fairness of how employees are being treated? Schools that are accredited with conforming to standards of education delivery and practice, could also have this other 'we treat our employees fairly and equally' component. It strikes me that when it comes to employer/employee relations, International schools are almost Victorian in their management of staff!
     
  2. Time and time again I hear colleagues say things like 'keep your head down, don't rattle any cages and you will be fine' being the way to get along in International school jobs. But why should teachers live their professional lives in this 'watch your back' way? Does anyone on here agree that it is high time that teachers in International schools had some Union representation? I don't see why it cannot be possible as there are professional accreditation organisations that monitor standards in International schools. So why not an organisation that monitors the fairness of how employees are being treated? Schools that are accredited with conforming to standards of education delivery and practice, could also have this other 'we treat our employees fairly and equally' component. It strikes me that when it comes to employer/employee relations, International schools are almost Victorian in their management of staff!
     
  3. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    I'm not a huge fan of unions. There, I've said it. Maybe in theory they're ok, but in reality... (I know, I know, they've helped a ton of people, brought us from virtual slavery into modern protected and reasonable working conditions. Credit where credit is due and all that.)
    Anyway, overseas there are a few issues. I'm sure others will chime in with the ones I don't mention.
    First, lack of legal authority. The countries and schools where unions would do the most good, are the same ones where unions would be standing on very wobbly legs. If a school does the dirty on someone, it's usually because they'll be able to get away with it in the conditions of the country. A union without authority wouldn't be able to do anything except make you a cup of tea.
    Second, lack of standard conditions. Unions do collective bargaining. That works when there are reasonable similarities across the range of represented workers. Hence different unions for different professions. But while teaching shares a number of similarities, international schools work in vastly different environments. Contracts, pay and conditions are all different and cannot reasonably become the same. But really, most schools have already come into the modern age in terms of conditions. No one is requiring 55 hours of contact time per week. Maternity leave is available. It's the more subtle things (maternity leave with a smile, or with some pressure; taking cover hours beyond what feels reasonable) that still cause grief. And I don't think an international union would have the power to do anything.
    TES and ***, on the other hand, give individuals power to get informed.
    I wish teachers were better protected from predatory or ill-managed schools. I really do. I feel very empathetic for those who end up in tough situations. I just don't see how unions would fix it in our unique context.
     

  4. This is poppycock. Among the more established HMC aspirational type schools, I'd be willing to argue the toss but for most schools out there, it simply isn't true.
    You can go from one end of China, for example, to the other and never come across a school that meets any kind of decent standards. SE Asia is full of them and the ME much the same. As for West Africa - I've never heard of a single one.
    I'm not a fan of Unions either and I think the problems of setting an international one up are so huge that it would be a decades long struggle for Keir Hardie never mind Mr. T.Chur. M.Ed.

    *** and TES are good ways to get informed - but they are limited in their scope - and the Teaching Agencies, including the Sainted Finders, are less than honest when it comes to giving you the full low down on the dump they are taking money from to send you to.
    The truth is - don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed.
     
  5. Gut

    Gut

    My new (and first) international school has a teacher's Union especially for teachers of that school. I'm guessing this is not common?
     
  6. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    If you're in SE Asia I know where you are.
    Rare and unnecessary. If you're the type that needs a union stay in the UK. Too many green / wet behind the ears teachers who think they're on a holiday in international schools.
    Work hard, do a good job and you'll be fine. Whinge moan call for unions say how hard your life is and generally not smell the multitude of roses and you'll suffer.

     
  7. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    This is a rather silly comment. Unions are, indeed, necessary to protect teachers from the virtually unrestricted power of heads who are not always as professional and sincere as Dude and Mainwaring. In international schools in Western Europe, you will often find unions, or, in Spain, comites de empresa. These perform a very useful role in negotiating pay and conditions with owners/boards and in keeping employees informed about their legal rights. Labor law here is not always easy to negotiate to new teachers with limited knowledge of the language and it's very useful indeed to have someone around to explain things like rights with regard to maternity/paternity leave and so on.
     
  8. Gut

    Gut

    I didn't know they had one until I got my contract documentation, so it's existence didn't factor in choosing the school.

    Sounds stalkerish ;-)
     
  9. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    A PTA can certainly contribute to that effect but it ain't necessarily so. Many Latin American schools already have very powerful parent organisations. The Centro de Padres typically has an office in the school building and its Committee can seem very like a parallel Board of Governors. This doesn't always improve the educational product, as constant interference can be counter-productive, especially when personal axes are ground. Stirring in a Centro de Alumnos (ex-students) also with an office on campus, doesn't do much for the recipe either.
     
  10. kemevez

    kemevez Occasional commenter

    Stay in the UK. Plenty of unions there. Utopia.
     

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