Obtaining testimonials about the working conditions among the teachers who work in the Medac group, focused on Vocational Training academies, is complicated for a simple reason: the workers sign a confidentiality clause when they access the job, as if it were a technological multinational that keeps great secrets. The consequence is that, whether they are active or have left the company, they are afraid to report it in public. “These clauses are not considered lawful unless they affect the business competition of the company, and an education clause can hardly have these issues of business competition. The measure violates the freedom of expression of the worker as a fundamental right, which he cannot renounce ”, argues Jesús Cruz Villalón, professor of Labor Law at the University of Seville. Medac refuses to respond to this newspaper about this practice and the employment situation of its workers.
The Medac group is not a small company. Founded in 2010, among others, by Javier Imbroda, Andalusian Minister of Education, it has 700 employees, is dedicated to teaching online and has a strong presence in Spain, with 41 centers in seven autonomous communities, 19 of them in Andalusia, and 10,000 students who attend classes in person and remotely. Medac was sold last September to the US investment fund KKR for 200 million, an operation that multiplied its value by seven in just three years.
Private vocational training companies have experienced a veritable explosion in the last decade, and have gone from 22,000 students to 250,000, according to figures from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. In the case of Medac, the staff is made up mainly of young teachers hired by the hour and whose goal is to one day enter public education. Complaints about working conditions are multiplying, according to the unions.
The first complaints about the working conditions of the Medac staff arose last summer through the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) union, whose complaint caused the company to increase the number of tenured professors hired. Since then, each center has a tenured teacher per degree, who this course has had to prepare the didactic programs for all the subjects of each cycle, even if they do not master the subject in question, to avoid further problems. “If there are 8 or 10 people who teach in a cycle, there is only one appointed as a tenured professor who is in charge of all this work,” says Nadia Bouadi, CGT Communications Secretary. The network of centers includes qualifications such as Nursing Assistant, Computer Science, Dietetics and Nutrition or Sports, which usually consist of two courses and some 13 subjects.
Teachers have hourly contracts —with a maximum of 27—, but they are unaware of the stipulated price per hour because salaries fluctuate without a fixed and transparent guideline. “Every time a worker begins to ask for payroll reviews or explanations, he is no longer seen well in the company and is finally fired, as we have seen on several occasions,” denounces Daniel Lozano, from UGT, a union that has won a first trial. against the group for unfair dismissal.
“I’m not afraid of losing my job for speaking to the press, but of being reported in court,” confesses Cristina (fictitious name), a vocational training teacher, who denounces that she works part of her working day for free, like most of the teachers hired by Medac, because the company only pays for teaching hours. The rest —tutorials, didactic programming, evaluations and cloisters— are carried out unpaid. “With my 21-hour contract, I worked 40 to prepare the classes, the tutorials and record data. You realize that the salary of 940 euros does not compensate ”, signs another teacher who also claims anonymity despite the fact that he left the firm last summer.
The ten teachers and ex-teachers interviewed by this newspaper agree that only one teacher for each cycle has tenured status and the rest are assistants despite the fact that they hold tenured duties and teach classes alone in the classroom. Full-time teachers earn 23,335 euros gross per year and assistant teachers earn 19,536, as established by the national collective agreement for private schools. This norm establishes that assistant professors “collaborate with the tenured professor in the development of the programs, under the guidelines and guidance of the tenured professor.”
The company advertises on its website that its business culture is based on “solidarity and empathy”, as well as that its teaching teams and students have “blue blood”. Several professors assure that behind closed doors the teacher is “infantilized”: “In the two-hour meetings they use the sandwich technique for which they praise you, scold you with phrases like ‘This cannot be allowed’ and finally cheer you up. You think you are a student and you feel bad, even though you do your job well”, explains one of them.
Apart from the Labor Inspectorate that oversees teacher contracts if they receive complaints, the Educational Inspection of the Junta de Andalucía has evaluated 292 private VT centers in the last three years, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education. Several inspectors criticize that these actions are limited to verifying the teaching powers and do not analyze how it is evaluated and programmed in private centers, because the action plan so orders. Imbroda was a partner of Medac until he was elected deputy for Ciudadanos in 2018, when he sold his shares (29% of the total) for 8.6 million euros.
The expansion of Medac is completed with the Technological University of the Atlantic-Mediterranean (UTEMED), online and based in Malaga, whose draft was approved by the Andalusian Board a month ago despite the contrary report from the technicians from the Ministry of Universities. The report highlighted “the doubts about its economic sustainability, the impossibility of guaranteeing compulsory external practices and the deficient planning of the teaching staff”. However, the private university obtained the go-ahead from the Andalusian government to get going.
Last summer, elections were held in Medac to elect the company committees and center delegates, but the unions were not called because lists of workers were presented, whom the centrals accuse of being affiliated with Medac. This newspaper has contacted five company headquarters to speak with the delegates of the works council and only received a response from Miguel Ángel López, from the center of Granada, who limited himself to diverting the call to the communication department and marketing of the company Before hanging up, he commented: “Suggestions are heard to go from discontinuous fixed to indefinite, but we are negotiating.”
After Medac’s refusal to give explanations to this newspaper for the complaints of labor irregularities, the company has sent an email to all teachers to avoid leaks: “We remind you that whenever any media outlet, journalist or external company contacts contact you, you have at your disposal the communication mail or marketingwhere you must send all these requests ”, reads the notice.
“Squaring the number of passes and fails”
The complaints from the teachers also allude to the quality of the teaching provided at Medac: the directors of the centers put pressure on the teachers to “balance” the optimal number of passes and failures that the company considers, according to their complaints, regardless of the level of expertise and knowledge of students. “Some teachers put the grades that we really consider appropriate and we don’t care what they tell us. Despite the pressure, we remain firm, but there are very few of us who do not go through the hoop in cloisters,” says a teacher who claims not to be identified.
“The students are unaware of this and the truth is that, for our own safety, we prefer it, because the parents would eat us in the mentoring sessions. They already sense it and sometimes it costs us big problems ”, he adds. The directorates of several centers ordered to stop scoring practices and work —as was done in the past— until the quarterly evaluations, in order to be able to decide in the faculty the qualifications that Medac considers ideal, based on the scoring method called the bell of Gauss, which sets some qualification parameters.
The CGT union summarizes how the three annual evaluations are carried out: “There cannot be many notables or outstanding ones —everything balanced—, regardless of what the teaching-learning process of the students has actually been and the results obtained in their tests (…) Not everyone can fail, as it would mean losing customers; Not all students can get good grades, because you have to maintain the prestige that titles are not given away there; in the first quarter, a heavy hand and in June the miracle works and there they all pass and are thrown into the labor market”. Until last year, Medac paid 50 euros to teachers for each FP student to whom they managed to sell the master’s degrees they offer, in order to retain students for another year.
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