Why is the Union promoting a code of practice for migrant educators at a time when we face so many other challenges?
The Union is only as strong as its most vulnerable members. If we do not take steps to end disadvantage and unequal treatment when it does not affect us personally, we leave the door open to employers to dilute our rights and entitlements later. We are encouraging school and college groups to promote this code in their workplaces to ensure that the migrant staff who currently work there, or may work there in the future, are not used:
- As a source of cheaper labour
- As compliant staff who will not complain about worsening terms and conditions of employment.
Who should adopt the code?
We want the employers of school and college staff to adopt the code. However, the code is entirely voluntary and does not impose any legal obligation on employers. The intention is that the code will help guide and reinforce best practice in relation to the employment of educators from overseas and remind employers of their existing legal obligations to staff.
What does the Union hope to achieve by promoting the code?
The purpose of the code is threefold:
- To create awareness of the issues affecting educators from overseas and promoting their interests
- To recruit the small but significant proportion of educators from overseas who are not in a union
- To support members from overseas in taking a central and active role in the Union.
Who should promote the code?
We want educators from overseas to take the lead so that they:
- Gain a sense of agency and control over their own destinies
- Help shape the experiences of those who come after them for the better
- Are empowered to be active in the Union, not just on this, but on other issues
- Present a human face to employers who may be unconcerned or uninterested in the challenges faced by migrant staff.
If there are no educators from overseas in your school/college then ask someone who feels strongly about the issue to take the lead.
Remember that whoever you choose to lead this project will require the support of your school/college union group to succeed. Everyone should be prepared to pitch in and help in whatever way they can.
What do we mean by ‘educators from overseas’ or ‘migrant educators’?
The code is intended to support workers who are newly arrived in the UK and may therefore require more support than would normally be the case for settled workers. Newly arrived workers may be more vulnerable to exploitation and at greater risk of alienation due to cultural differences. Such workers require, and will no doubt value, the support of their school/college union group.
How should reps help interested members promote the code?
Reps may take the following steps to support members who are interested in promoting the code:
- Assuming most members will be unaccustomed to leading a school/college union group discussion, invite the member to join the next workplace meeting to see how you do it.
- Help them draft a narrative/script that they are happy to share with colleagues. If they are migrant educators, they may wish to say something about their initial impression of life and work in the UK; what they found difficult and what they would have appreciated help and support with. If they are the children and/or grand-children of migrants, they may wish to share their parents and/or grandparents’ experience of migration.
- Encourage the staff governor to persuade other governors of the benefits of adopting the code.
- Be honest with yourself and with interested members about the level of opposition you will face, even from people within the Union, so that affected members are prepared to deal with some degree of belligerence and even xenophobia.
- Place any genuine concerns that members may have about immigration in a historical context. Trade unions have not always behaved as they should to migrant workers and it is important to remind some members that any legitimate arguments they may have against migration should not be directed at individual educators from overseas. Enclosed in this suite of documents is a hand-out summarising the story of the Bristol Bus Boycott, which you and interested members are encouraged to share with colleagues in your workplace.
- Discuss the code in the context of other diversity and equality issues, such as the lack of diversity in the teacher workforce and what that may mean for the culture of the workplace and the learning environment for students. You may wish to refer to the DfE’s ‘Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy’ and the absence of any initiatives there to increase the representation of BME, disabled and LGBT+ teachers.
How should organisers support reps and members?
- Promote an understanding of the structures within the Union, such as the equality seat holder roles, equality networks and the regional councils, through which events to highlight the code and other equality issues may be supported and funded.
- Let HQ know what you hear about migration and Brexit during your visits to schools/colleges so that appropriate support may be offered to reps and members.
- Encourage interested members to set up regional networks of people prepared to speak on the government’s ever-changing migration policies and their impact on educators and their families.
What sort of follow-up activities may reps and members engage in?
- Complete the feedback form included in this suite of documents and let us know of your success or failure in promoting the code.
- Engage in genuine partnerships with third sector organisations that seek to promote the interests of migrant communities in your area.
- Use what is happening in the headlines to talk about issues affecting migrant educators.
- Promote International Migrants Day at your school/college.