The hagwon life at CPIS continues to baffle us; Friday we were given slightly less than half pay(which was already 5 days late). Monday I found out the Korean teachers got even less. My director hinted that she’s skeptical about the key money we were previously told would cover our lost pay if the CEO closed the school. She had a disturbing meeting with the CEO where he deflected and laughed off every question she had about paychecks, pensions and the $1 million key money (deposit) he had on the building. She translated that to us as “it may not be there.”
After a laborious staff meeting that kept going in circles we realized there is a divide between the Korean staff and native English speakers. The complaints were universal but when it came time to see who was ready to take action the only raised hands were white. So far our new director is doing a good job of keeping us in the loop. Unfortunately the resulting discovery of [the owner’s] refusal to communicate left us with an even greater feeling of hopelessness. It seems that she shares this frustration and also feels powerless to negotiate with him.
Today is Wednesday January 15th; my latest birthday present was the news that [the owner] is in fact selling the business. At first I thought that was a good thing but now I’m less sure. We don’t have any answers about how the sell will effect us and have heard stories of teachers being fired in the 11th month to avoid paying severance. Who will take over paying us and the pension? Will we have new contracts, will it void our old contract? We are suspicious that this is a ploy to get out of some of what we are owed.
Our weekly Wednesday morning meeting with the principal removed any glimmers of hope about the sale. When it was just a rumor we hoped that getting rid of [the owner] might mean we actually get paid on time. Unfortunately no one knows what will actually happen, including the administration. Some suspect that our contracts will be null & void; that our severances will disappear and we will have to keep chasing [the owner] for the money he owes us. What made it even worse were [principal’s] comments about how left out of the loop she was and that it didn’t look good.
Immediately following the weekly meeting I went to our school’s director with a few coworkers. We expressed the urgency for information about the buyout to be disseminated. Without knowing what will happen we must prepare for the worst; that means that until the rest of my coworkers are holding a letter of release they are planning on restarting the lengthy visa process. The school’s director was unable to answer our questions but assured us she’s in the same position as us.
Wait, hold up. Same position? Not a chance. If the worst happens and we are all fired she can go home to her husband. Sure it might be a blotch on her resume but she’ll be allowed to keep working in Korea and has the ability to easily communicate and pursue legal action. We are at the whim of whomever is translating and if our biggest fears come true than most of my peers will need to leave the country (at our own expense) in order to restart the 3 month visa process. This will certainly jeopardize their future employment which begins in 28 more days just like mine.
There was some good news by the end of the day; but that only came after I called a lawyer and my coworkers called the ministry of labor. It turns out they probably won’t need a Letter of Release as long as they finish the contract. That’s a huge relief for them but we are waiting for it to be confirmed. The lawyers and ministry both told us that as long as we work the full month we will get paid; we may just have to wait. Well I’ll be waiting 28 more days, I don’t expect to have all of my money by then but hope we don’t need to head to the courts to get our paychecks and pension!
In terms of teaching all of us have been showing too many English movies and find it hard to motivate ourselves to even do the bare minimum. If we start to get paid on time and our pension accounts are brought up to speed then I’ll start developing new centers. Until then I’ve told the administration they won’t get anything other than an “English speaking classroom.” No more parent notes, no dressing up for holidays, and certainly no more creative lessons to help my students learn.