VALENCIA & ALICANTE PROTEST RECAP
Fifty-two people protested the Conselleria de Educación and Conselleria de Hacienda at simultaneous protests in Valencia and Alicante, Spain, at 2pm on January 31, 2020.
The protesters were demanding solutions from the Conselleria de Educación and Conselleria de Hacienda of the Comunidad Valenciana for non-payment of monthly stipends and delayed payments adversely affecting students in the Auxiliares de Conversación program. The protest in Valencia took place at the Palau de la Generalitat in Valencia, while the Alicante protest was held at Casa de las Brujas.
Upon arrival in Valencia, the protesting auxiliaries were informed that the Conselleria de Educación and Conselleria de Hacienda wished to meet privately with representative auxiliaries. While most of our protesters chanted and engaged the public outside the Generalitat building, auxiliar representatives and a STEPV union representative were invited inside the Generalitat for a meeting with Margarida Castellano, Director General of Educational Innovation for the Conselleria de Educación, Amparo de Fez of the Plurilingüe department of the Conselleria de Educación, and Francesc Gamero, Secretary of Hacienda.
We were gratified to meet with both Educación and Hacienda, as we understand that the payment failures and delays we’ve experienced can only be solved by the cooperation and coordination of these two government agencies. We communicated that we hoped to focus on solutions to the problems we’ve faced.
We first listened to the Director General and Secretary. Then we shared our concerns and experience with payment delays, and our frustrations with not being able to obtain timely resolution. We were also prepared with our auxiliar-generated list of demands for the Valencian Government. We went through the list point by point.
We felt that the Educación and Hacienda representatives were open to hearing our concerns, and seemed willing to make changes to improve the timely delivery of payments to auxiliaries now and in the future.
They seemed empathetic of our situation as foreign young people, many of whom speak little or no Spanish upon arrival, dealing with the complexity of multiple Spanish bureaucracies – Educación, Extranjeria, the banking system, healthcare system. They seemed understanding and willing to help streamline our paths through these systems more efficiently and to help ensure the accuracy of all documentation related to payments.
So, what happens next?
Specifically, the Conselleria advised us that they have already made a change to the way they process auxiliares’ monthly payments in their system. We were told that everyone’s payment for January 2020 should go out on February 7, 2020. Going forward, we communicated that we need the Conselleria de Educación to publish a schedule of monthly payment dates prior to the next course so that 2020 – 2021 auxiliares can plan their budgets and will know if a payment is late according to the payment schedule.
Next, the Director General advised us that her office would respond to the auxiliares’ demand list.
We are grateful to the Conselleria de Educación and Conselleria de Hacienda for taking the time to meet with us, hear our concerns, and be willing to make changes that will only enhance the effectiveness of the Auxiliares de Conversación program by ensuring each auxiliar participant receives timely payments. We would also like to express our gratitude to the STEPV union for supporting the auxiliaries, and every auxiliar in the Valencian Community for joining together to help this program live up to its promise.
Who are we?
We are referred to as Auxiliares de Conversación or Language Assistants. We are English-speaking foreigners in Spain and come from North America – the United States and Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
We come to Spain with the promise of a monthly stipend of 1,000 € in exchange for 16 hours per week assisting Spanish teachers with their English classes. We are invited to Spain by the Ministry of Education, and are assigned to autonomous regions of Spain. The Language Assistants who are protesting are all assigned to the Valencian region of Spain, and the Conselleria de Educación of Valencia (Department of Education) is responsible for administering our program and payments. This program typically runs from October to May each year, and the local Department of Education is responsible for overseeing our activities during this time and ensuring we receive payments to cover the cost of housing, food and transportation to our assigned schools.
What do we want?
Following are the demands of the Language Assistants in the Auxiliares de Conversación program in Valencia.
The Conselleria de Educación needs to:
- Take responsibility and be held accountable for timely monthly payment of all Language Assistants.
- Publish all expected payment dates at the beginning of each school year, prior to auxiliaries commencing their participation in each school cycle.
- Proactively communicate directly via telephone or email with any Language Assistant whose payment may be in jeopardy of not being timely paid, and offer solutions to the Language Assistant PRIOR TO A MISSED PAYMENT.
- Respond within 48 hours to ALL phone calls and emails received within normal business hours regarding monthly payments and/or payment documents of Language Assistants.
- In the event of a failure to pay a Language Assistant within 10 CALENDAR days following the prior month worked, the Conselleria will arrange for a full emergency payment to the Language Assistant with 48 hours notice.
- Provide clear and accurate information regarding documentation requirements for how to obtain a NIE and TIE, and setting up bank accounts prior to commencement of the program. Offer assistance with setting up appointments with the Office of Extranjería in order to obtain NIE and/or TIE documentation.
There are approximately 800 Language Assistants in the Valencian community, second to only Madrid in number of Auxiliares. Unfortunately, unlike in the rest of Spain, the Conselleria d'Educació, Cultura i Esport is consistently late delivering our stipend. 80 auxiliares worked four months with zero support or payment. To top this off, as of January 29, 2020, all 800 auxiliares were still waiting on their December payment that should have been deposited into their accounts by the 10th of January.
We are young people – most are recent university graduates – and we have been lied to over and over by the Valencian Conselleria of Education. This is the 3rd year where they have failed to pay us on time. In the program cycle that began in the second semester of the 2017-2018 school year, every Language Assistant suffered 4-6 months without payment.
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, we were promised better results. We weren't paid until the 10th of December (two months late), but only after bombarding the Valencian Conselleria of Education with emails, contacting the Valencian press, publishing articles with local newspapers multiple times, and, joining forces with a teachers’ union in Valencia and protesting with them outside the Conselleria Office building. We thought that it had been resolved, that they had learned from their mistakes... But the dysfunction persists and makes it extremely difficult for foreign young people to participate in the program while meeting their basic human needs for food, shelter and transportation.
Furthermore, the Conselleria de Educación of Valencia has acted with extreme negligence. They rarely answer phone calls or emails, and when they do, they give random excuses which are easily debunked as to why they haven't paid us. All lies.
The truth is they are irresponsible with their money and are making our lives in Spain, hell. The Language Assistants don't have money for rent, food, transportation to our assigned schools, tickets home, etc.. but are still expected to go to work each day and pay their way (metro, bus, etc)
So we are protesting and we want your support.
We want the Conselleria d'Educació, Cultura i Esport to pay what they owe us, in the time it is owed, and for them to take the steps necessary so this will never happen again.
We are tired of the lies. We are tired of the suffering. We are tired of being taken advantage of. We want to practice our basic human rights... But as our visa is a student visa, Spain has provided us with practically no rights. We need to bring this to the public eye.. we need a change!
And so, we are protesting. We are taking the legal steps to properly protest, to make ourselves heard in hopes of gaining support. In Spain, the USA, and beyond.
People need to know about this abuse of power, the corruption of the Valencian government. We need to be properly informed before uprooting our lives in our home countries, with our hopes of a good experience overseas in the "beloved country of Spain."
The people responsible for this mishap are:
Vincent Marzá- Head of the Conselleria d'Educació, Cultura i Esport
Frederic Santandreu Gallego - the program’s coordinator
Elsa Vilalta Fonfria Head of the Plurilingüe Department
Ximo Puig was the president of the Generalitat (Valencian government) who decided to open the program for 1,000 auxiliares starting in January 2018.
You can read more about the program here.