BRITAIN’S LEADING left of centre newspaper company is paying freelance native speakers of English the UK minimum wage to conduct conversation classes online. Guardianlanguages. com, a website belonging to the Guardian News and Media Group, is offering £5.52 an hour to native speakers.
Paying minimum wage is not illegal; advertising for native speakers is more contentious. To 'justify discrimination' Guardian News and Media believe they have to show that it is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, according to Jason West, whose company, languagesoutthere, developed the programme. Legal advice given to the Gazette states that courts require hard evidence in order to justify discrimination. We asked the Guardian for their evidence but none has been provided.
Only native English speaker ‘partners’ qualify for payment but no educational requirements are specified. Qualified EFL teachers with nothing better to do will also initially be paid minimum wage rate. West is confident that over time qualified teflers will earn more as users are asked to rate the lessons they receive and ‘partners’ receiving consistently good ratings can ask for an increase on £5.52.
Qualified teachers in London earn about £20 an hour for private conversation classes. Those who do sign up in the hope of earning more than £5.52 an hour can opt to download one-hour lesson plans costing £20. In the UK 120 hours of course material retails at around £25. The same amount of material would be £2,700 from guardianlanguages. Asked to justify the cost difference West said he was confident about both quality and price of the materials. 'Self-study students can purchase packs for just £1 each,' he pointed out.
Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Pamplona, Spain