One year ago today 1 March 2018, I arrived early at Elians School, La Nucia, and was in my classroom at 8.30 a.m. preparing to mark pupils’ exercise books, when a management hit squad swept into the room: Company CEO Tim Lakin, backed up by Assistant Principals Sheila Davidson and Amanda Pyott, bearing a dismissal letter in a sealed envelope and demanding I leave the premises immediately.
The physical stance of the three managers reminded me of the kind of people who stand outside a nightclub on a Saturday night. In the previous two months I had been organising a trade union response to the appalling labour relations by poor management, and also challenging the pay structure in the school which flouted the teaching “Convenio” for teachers in Spain’s private schools. I left the premises, as requested, then began my legal defence together with the trade union legal team from CC.OO (Comisiones Obreras.) I was also in contact with other teachers who had been dismissed illegally, all of whom eventually had their unfair dismissals overturned and compensated.
The Elians group is now owned entirely by Swedish company IES and was forecast in the financial year 2018/19 to generate revenues of 15.3 million Euros. Not bad for a total employee headcount of just 248 staff – of whom 197 are teachers. A low wage bill is part of the company’s business plan, which combines a confrontational management style with the tradition of the historic anti-union stance of the previous owners, the Monzonis family.
After settling out of court in February, I now have my compensation settlement in the bank, so I have sent the following message to all staff who remain in the school, to encourage them to fight back if they experience similar unfair dismissal.
As teachers, our integrity and reputation are of the greatest importance. Many of us worked in good schools in the UK before working in Spain and built our careers on a solid foundation of excellent qualifications, hard work in challenging professional environments, and have a proven track record of pupil results.
That professional history must not be trashed by incompetent management in the nasty kind of instant dismissals for which Elians management now has a serial reputation. There have been at least four cases in the past 12 months where Elians has been taken to court by sacked teachers from Elians La Nucia and in every case the company has admitted wrongful dismissal and paid out the legally determined compensation.
The latest case to come to court in Alicante was mine. I was sacked a year ago on 1 March 2018 and my case against Elians went to court on 11 February 2019 in the Juzgado de lo Social No.3, in Alicante. This followed the same pattern as all the previous cases: half an hour before the court hearing the Elians company lawyer agreed with the trade union’s defence of wrongful dismissal and settled out-of-court.
For the record, I was paid the equivalent of seven months salary by Elians. (The amount of compensation is set in law and is determined by the length of service in the school.) The pay out for other Elians teachers in recent months – both primary and secondary teachers – has been similar.
If you find yourself in a similar position in future and are wrongly dismissed by the management of Elians, you need to know that they do not settle even when the law has been explained to them, but they always let it go to court (hoping you will go away and forget about it?) and then they settle half-an-hour before the case is due to be heard in court in Alicante. This happens every time. Remember that, if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Above all, make sure that you are in a union. In my case the CC.OO (Comisiónes Obreras) covered all the legal costs over a twelve month period, advised me on my social security rights etc. Spanish labour law is very clear to all, except to Elians management; so if anything happens to you in future, challenge them and you will win.
As I said at the start, it is not just about the money. As professionals, our reputation is very important. I did consider taking another teaching post last September but as I had not yet won my case for unfair dismissal – and it takes a while to go to court – I thought it unwise to proceed. That is the potential damage to your career while you wait to have a bad management decision overturned.
At the age of 67 I am now retired and enjoying it, but I will now enjoy retirement more because I have been vindicated against fabricated slurs and calumnies put in writing by the poor Elians management who do not care about the professional reputations of their teaching staff.
Take care. It’s a jungle out there!
All the best,