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Minister asked to help teachers 'owed thousands' after language school closes

The trade union has written to the Social Protection Minister asking her to provide assistance for the teachers.

Image: LanLearn

TRADE UNION UNITE has written to the government to ask for assistance for teachers who claim to be owed thousands after a language school in Limerick closed last week.

Lanlearn is based in the Parkway Shopping Centre in Limerick and gives English language classes that are mandatory as part of Ireland’s visa programme.

Unite say that around 10 teachers are owed up to €3,000 each in unpaid wages, and are asking the Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, to assist teachers by granting them exceptional leave and allowing them to apply for assistance to the Insolvency Payments Scheme (IPS).

Her department said that it would work to ensure social welfare payments were made available as quickly as possible, but that the IPS payment wouldn’t be available.

Parkway Parkway Shopping Centre, where the language school was based. Source: Google Maps

Unite’s regional organiser Roy Hassey said the case highlighted shortcomings in the Insolvency Payments Scheme, which can only be activated in a liquidation.

“Given that the business has not declared insolvency, the school proprietor remains liable for the wages owed and other debts. However, the owner – who, according to documentation seen by Unite, bought the school for €100 in early 2017 – has effectively disappeared.

“The losers in this situation are the workers and other creditors: they cannot retrieve monies owed from Lanlearn’s proprietor, and are not eligible for assistance from the IPS since no insolvency has been declared or liquidator appointed.”

Advice for students

In an automatic email response, the college said that students who have paid for a course that now won’t be completed are entitled to an alternative course.

For those who have started their course but not completed it, or just arrived in Ireland and yet to start their course, Lanlearn’s general advice is:

“The insurance provider of Learner Protection for the Limerick International Study Centre (LISC) has informed the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) that it will make alternative arrangements for all registered students to study in other English language schools in Limerick.”

Students who have yet to start their course are advised to get in touch with the insurers to find out what they are entitled to.

In cases where people want to renew their visas and have pre-paid for a course at Lanlearn, the college says:

If you paid for your course before 26 January you will be able to renew your visa at immigration. If you paid for your course after, you will need to wait until you have a new school before registering with immigration.

If you have paid for your course in Limerick but have not yet arrived in Ireland, you’re advised to contact the ICOS.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, the Department of Social Protection said:

“The insolvency payments scheme does not cover situations where employers cease trading without engaging in any formal wind-up process. Therefore, the employees in question do not have access to the scheme.”

Employees of companies which have ceased trading but which have not been formally wound up are entitled to claim jobseekers’ allowance/jobseekers’ benefit and other income supports.
The Department makes every effort to ensure that employees of companies which cease trading in circumstances like this can access social welfare entitlements and short-term income supports in a timely manner.

The department added that those affected should contact their local Intreo Centre for advice and support:

  • Intreo Centre Limerick – Dominick Street, Limerick – (061) 212200
  • Intreo Centre Newcastlewest – Gortboy, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick – (069) 24600
  • Social Welfare Branch Office, Kilmallock – Charleville Road, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – (063) 20900.

Lanlearn college have been contacted for comment. This article was updated to include a statement from the Department at 3.30pm.

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