EFL teachers below the poverty line

The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the workers is heart-broken at the e-mails it has been receiving during the past few days, in which it is yet again our colleagues in the EFL sector who are living a reality of utter distress. The mails were many, and wrought with pain which would be unbearable under normal circumstances, let alone in the reality we are currently going through.

One email in particular, which the union was distraught to read, was sent by an EFL teacher living in a household of four people. To date, this family has not received the grant which was promised, possibly due to delays in processing, the husband is a cancer patient and the two children do not work. The obvious needs of a family has created a situation where  this man, one of our vulnerable people, one who should be at home, protected and cared for due to his condition, has felt the need to go out to work, defying the strain and the exhaustion which the illness he is fighting subjects him to without respite. This is a family which has been living hand to mouth until COVID-19 made its appearance, getting to the end of the month with just enough to keep a roof over their heads, have food on the table and pay off bills and utilities. With no income to guarantee any of all this, this family is now in dire straits, fearing the imminent loss of being able to secure the bare necessities, and dreading the possibility that the man of the house might contract a virus he might not be able to fight off. This is one of the heart-rending statements she made in her email, “What can I write here?…..I find myself lost for words… the emotional upheaval is too much to go to: what can I do, what can I sell, how do I pay my end of the month bills which used to be so normal for me before? so normal? what do I do now?…”.

In view of all this, despite seeing many applaud the sheer numbers of grants that have been distributed thus far, the union finds itself angered and discouraged at how the individuals have been side-lined to a situation with is not just a risk of poverty, but one in which poverty has become a harsh reality. For this reason, the union is formally asking the government to speed up the process of distribution as much as possible, to ensure that jobs lost do not lead to homelessness, hunger or even loss of lives.

The union is also asking the government to intervene on the payment of bills, requesting a pardon or a moratorium in these difficult times, allowing for our colleagues, citizens of our nation state, to live through this time in a dignified and safe manner. The UPE also recommends requesting a moratorium, from the banks, on VISA repayments at this point in time. The union is asking the government to provide these people with the tools needed to be able to work remotely, such as internet connection, hardware or software, as a subsidy so that the money received through the grant is invested on the more basic needs to guarantee survival, for it is survival we are talking about when the poverty line has risen above the level of these individuals’ standards of living.

Finally, the union is asking the government to review the payment status of those on 0-hour contracts working in this sector. These people have been duped into believing that their part-time casual status would never have affected their standard of living and were receiving a wage which would normally qualify as a full-time job prior to the onset of COVID-19. What they are getting now is not something they can live on as, in many cases, that which they are receiving through the grant amounts to less than half of what they usually have in hand to support not only themselves, but also their families. These people have been paying taxes which are in proportion with their earnings at all times, and the government has had no issues with that, but when it came to granting subsidies, the government opted to use a one-size-fits-all option, dismissing them as simple part-timers, which in truth subjects them to yet another injustice of epic proportions.

The union is appealing to the government to act promptly, for the situation is both urgent and critical, before the situation worsens to a point of no return.