Payday and stirring the hornets nest

Last time CPIS failed to pay us I went on what ended up being 6 days of “psuedo-strike.”  My coworkers and I had resolved that for as long as they were holding our paychecks hostage our “normal teaching” would halt.  It was an enjoyable time for my students since that meant we did minimal work and watched plenty of videos.

We’ve been continuing that schedule for most of January.  The shocking part is that the administration either is completely blind to it or doesn’t care.  After all we’re still talking in English and showing English speaking movies (unless its Wall-E).  This month I added to my striking by declaring that I would not do weekly or monthly parent comments until we are paid.

Well, today is when they are all due.  I walked into the teacher’s room to find my Korean co-teacher and a number of other Koreans including my principal.

“Mike Teacher, you know last week the parents did not get comments.”  Mary mentioned.  

“Yes, I know.” I responded loudly.  I wasn’t hiding anything and had even told them my plans 2 weeks prior.  “I told [director] and [principal in our whole school meeting two weeks ago that I would not send comments or complete any extra responsibilities until we are paid.  I will be in my room as a native English speaker but until we are compensated all that the school will get is my presence.”  

Nothing else was said and I went back to my room.  The last few weeks I am finding that my fuse has become shorter and shorter.  Ordinary student issues become a big problem and I have no patience for my administration, let alone a wise-ass student.  In some ways I think its good for them because I crack down more on negative behaviors.  Take yesterday for instance, I had some students fooling around and roughhousing.  They got immediate time outs which subsequently brought a waterfall of tears.  A few minutes later they were calm and had stopped pushing, shoving and putting each other in headlocks.

Or when my “favorite” student decides he just doesn’t want to write I leave him there.  Normally I’d go try and work him through it but I realize that sitting there will just light a fire beneath me that will only be tamed by getting a paycheck.  Well, perhaps the blaze is already alight and each minor incident adds another bucket of lighter fluid.  It reminds me of that time my friend tried to light the barbecue at my dads cabin.  He put a ton of coal and half a bucket of lighter fluid in before lighting it.  If the right spark catches the fire brewing at my school I doubt the CEO will be as lucky as my friend and get away with a few singed eyebrows.
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Well the good news is that we got paid this afternoon!  Immediately following a double take of my account I restarted teaching centers.  We haven’t done them in weeks and my students were ecstatic to start again!  Halfway through my principal & director knocked on my door to discuss something serious.

“Mike, we have something serious to talk about.”

“What is it?” I said as I stepped out of my classroom.  I figured this would somehow be related to pay or perhaps my threatening parent comments that I wrote earlier.  Don’t worry, after we were paid I immediately switched them to an actual parent comment.

“There is something in [owner’s] office.”  [director] explained but I instantly knew it was about my little note for him.  “That is very rude, you cannot do that to the boss.  It is serious.”

“Ah, you are talking about my note on his board?  I…”

“Yes, Mike this is a problem.”  [Principal] cut me off mid sentence.  “It could be very bad for you, we do not do things like that in Korea.”

“I’m not sure what was bad.  It says the exact same thing that I told you.  I will go to the ministry of labor if we are not paid.  Last time I told you that you waited to tell [the owner] until the last possible day.  I wanted to insure that he got the message in a timely fashion since I’d rather get paid than deal with the ministry.”

“But that’s not okay Mike.  It is very rude.”  Said [director].

I was getting fed up with her telling me my actions are rude.  How about how rude she was the  last time I brought up the paychecks and she laughed in my face?  Or when she asked me why I was being so serious after we were told our CEO had left the country after over 2 weeks of not being paid.

“Its not okay that we weren’t paid for 19 days.  It is beyond rude of him to continuously do this to us and assume zero responsibility for his actions.  I was being open with him and you and I wasn’t following the advice of my lawyer and every other colleague outside of XXXX.  I was waiting to go to the ministry of labor.  They said to go right now but I am trying to do right by you.  I gave him the advance notice of my plans so that he could mend his mistakes.”  It was tough to keep my voice down.  I was getting worked up over this but stood by my actions.

“We understand why you did it but it is still very rude.  You need to calm down about this Mike.  What would happen if I didn’t do my job?”  [director] asked.

“You would be fired.  If someone doesn’t do their job they don’t keep it.  Frankly, [the owner] hasn’t done his job.  He hasn’t followed our contract and hasn’t paid on time.  My first week here I was given a contract that falsely stated my start day, there were late paychecks immediately and …”

“Is that what you want Mike?  Do you want to be fired?  What would you do.  We need to do something about this.  And you wrote to parents too.” [Principal] jumped in.

“If you fired me I’d find another job.  I’m not worried about it and frankly you aren’t going to do that.  [principal],[director], I agree that something needs to be done and finally [the owner] is doing it.   He is selling the company so that you can fix the problems that he created.  I won’t work for free, I won’t sit idly by while he attempts to extort me and treat me like an indentured servant.  I am a professional and expect to be treated like one.  I see that what I did was ‘rude by the Korean standard and won’t argue with you about it.  I do on the other hand expect to be paid on time and if it happens again it will cause a problem.”

“But Mike, what are we going to do?”  [director] asked.

“About what?  We were paid.  Do you want me to apologize to [the owner]?  That’s hypocritical since he’ll never apologize for his actions but if that’s what you want…”

“YES!” [director] practically shouted.  “You MUST apologize.”

I quietly turned to push the elevator button.  This should be interesting.  [the owner] doesn’t speak a lick of English and to be honest I’m not even sure if I’m apologizing for the note on his whiteboard or for my weekly parent note that I submitted to [Principal] to send home.  Funny thing is they never stood a chance of going home, unless [Principal] didn’t proofread them.

Dear Flamingo Class Parents,
Due to a contractual dispute with the CEO of CPIS,
[the owner] the teachers, administration and other staff has
not received their full paycheck and pension deposits
have been withheld. The teachers are hoping to resolve
this issue without involving the department of labor and
will resume their regular duties after full compensation
has been received.
~Mike Teacher

I knocked, open his door and calmly approached [the owner].

“[Owner] , I want to say that I am sorry for rudely putting this message on your board.”  I said as I pointed to “FEBRUARY 1st MINISTRY OF LABOR” which I wrote a few days prior.  “I was trying to peacefully inform you what I told [director] earlier.  If we are unpaid by February 1st we would go to the Ministry of Labor.  I realize that I should have done this in a better way and am sorry.”

Korean, Korean Korean.  A little more Korean.  [director] translated.  [owner] responded.  [director]responded.  I really have no idea if what I said was conveyed.  The only thing I could think of while watching that asshole was that I hoped he sold the business so I could deal with someone else for my last month when [director] translated in broken English.

“You should not done that.”  pause “trust me.  I do not want close school.”

Well, that certainly wasn’t their entire conversation but frankly I could care less about what he actually said.  In my opinion he’s a scumbag and a thief.  Seeing as how I couldn’t say that so I bowed a few times, shook his hand and said a quick “thank you” before heading back to my classroom.

22 more days!

One thought on “Payday and stirring the hornets nest

  1. Pingback: Lunar New Year at a hogwon | Live, Learn, Travel, Teach

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