Action Community Organising Southwark

Safe Sick Pay: Community Organising in the ESOL classroom

By Adela Belecova, EFA teacher-organiser and Campaigning lead

We had a great training on community organising by Iris from the Centre for Progressive Change (CPC) in last Saturday’s Southwark ESOL class. Thank you very much, Iris — you made the training really accessible for students of all English levels, and we learned a lot! 

During the training, we talked about our experiences of getting sick and whether we got sick pay. Some people get it and some don’t; it depends on the company and their policy. We also talked about the fact the those who are unemployed do not get sick pay.

As a group, we agreed that it was essential to have good sick pay, because we still need to ‘survive, pay our rent and bills’ even when we are unwell. One student said, ‘you have two pains — one pain is your body and the other is that you don’t have money.’

A jamboard from our training, including feedback from students.

Iris told us about the ‘Safe Sick Pay’ campaign that CPC are running, and we signed a letter to our MPs to ask them to make changes to sick pay policy, so that it actually protects us.

During the training, we also reflected on two sets of pictures. The first set of pictures made us think about injustice and inequality, and how most money in the world is controlled by a small number of people.

A jamboard from our training, including feedback from students.

Looking at the second set of pictures, we had a conversation about ‘people power’ and how we can solve our problems if we work together. In order to be able to work with others, it is important to listen and build trust.

The last part of the training focused on how to hold conversations with people when we want to work with them on solving problems.

Students shared that they sometimes find it hard to get others involved in activities or actions. For example, one student said: ‘I told my friend to come to an English class, but she didn’t. Maybe I pushed her too hard.’

To counter these challenges, we learned about structuring the conversations around ‘anger-hope-action’ can be an effective way of doing this. We brainstormed questions that we can use to do this:

Anger – ‘How does this problem make you feel? Do you think it’s fair? How is it affecting you?’

Hope – ‘How can we change this? Do you think others also have the same problem?’

Action – ‘Will you speak to someone about this? Will you come to our next meeting?’

A jamboard from our training, including feedback from students.

Learn more about the Cleaners United coalition’s Safe Sick Pay campaign here, and sign up to join the campaign’s next weekly drop-in here.


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