Language assistants in Spain's Valencia not paid for months yet again

The Local Spain
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Language assistants in Spain's Valencia not paid for months yet again
Teaching assistants in Spain's Valencia haven't been paid for three months. Photo: OLI SCARFF / AFP

Some 1,400 English language assistants in Spain’s Valencia region have not been paid by the regional government for several months, the third year in a row it’s happened.


Every year, Spain employs thousands of native English-speakers from several countries to work as language assistants or 'auxiliares de conversación' in its public schools, but once again there are reports that those in the country’s eastern Valencia region have not been paid since October.

The role of auxiliares de conversación in Spain is to aid schoolteachers in the classroom for 16 hours a week, providing English-language assistance for several subjects.


It’s a government-backed scheme to help bolster bilingual education in Spain as well as an easy way for young people from abroad - many of them students from non-EU countries such as the US, Canada and the UK - to experience life in Spain over a certain amount of time and learn Spanish. 

Auxiliares should be compensated with a monthly payment of €1,000, designed as a tax-free grant (beca) to cover living expenses while they're here.

Not so in the Valencia region, where for the third year running some 1,4000 new English language assistants have not received any of their wages since the school year began. 

Back in February 2020, we reported on the same issue - many language assistants in the Valencia region hadn’t been paid their monthly stipend for more than four months.

In December 2021, there were reports that language assistants in the eastern region were again struggling to make ends meet in Spain after months without a salary.

This is now happening once more in 2022, at a time when inflation in Spain has been at its highest in three decades. 

The education branch of Valencia’s Federation of Public Services, part of Spain’s main trade union UGT, has recently slammed the regional education department as a result.

“It’s urgent and necessary that they are compensated for their services, which began on October 1st and will end on May 31st 2023," UGT said in a statement.

"They move from their countries and as they don't have full residency and work rights here, they find themselves in an unacceptable and precarious situation for a democratic society," UGT delegate Javier González Zurita told La Información.

Many auxiliares are first invited to Spain by the national Ministry of Education and are then assigned a spot in one of Spain’s 17 regions, where their regional government and department of education are responsible for them, including their wages.

Language assistants who have enquired about late payments over the years have typically been ignored, with emails and phone calls not answered. 

Language assistant for the British Council Roan Farley is one of them who has been waiting for his payments for the last three months.

“Since I came here, I, along with all the language assistants, have still not received any money,” Farley told The Local Spain.

“This has left us in a difficult position, in that we are unable to pay the rent or for basic goods such as food and other necessities, so we’re forced to return home with no intention of continuing with the scheme. 

“It's also having a huge impact on our mental health, as many of my peers are suffering from anxiety, among other mental illnesses,” he added.  

In previous years, some conversation assistants have had to take out loans or use their credit cards just to be able to live and have staged protests outside Valencia’s Education Ministry, demanding that the situation be resolved.


What is being done to help the situation?

Even though out-of-pocket auxiliares were told that authorities would try to rectify the situation back in 2020, the problem is still happening.

Those affected in 2022 have written letters of complaint to Spain’s Ministry of Education, the regional Secretary of Education, the general directors responsible for Language Policy and Management of Multilingualism, Educational Innovation and Organisation, and teaching centres.

According to Spanish daily La Información, there are also plans to stage a mass protest where auxiliares from the region's three provinces - Alicante, Valencia and Castellón - take part.

Why is this happening?

The issue of delayed wages has been blamed on Spain’s complicated bureaucracy due to the fact that language assistants are classified as students rather than regular teachers. As a result, each monthly payment has to be assessed by Spain's Hacienda tax agency first.

This is reportedly not affecting all auxiliares in the region.

There are also problems when it comes to opening a bank account as Spain’s Ministry of Education had said accounts needed to be linked to a NIE foreigner ID number, which has its own set of challenges, including trying to get an appointment to apply for one in the first place.

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain


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