LAST WEEK AT CPIS!

With only one week left at CPIS (my hellhole of a school) you’d think things would be winding down smoothly.  Then again nothing about the past 6 months has gone “smoothly” so why should this be any different?

Between the school’s buyout and an incredibly unprofessional new director we’ve had our share of lies, surprises and “extra fun” meetings.  It all started with my director shouting at me on the street.  She was accusing me of going to Yonsei University (where I’ve never been) and telling all of the parents that we hadn’t paid in 2 months (which isn’t true).  She began screaming as I tried to complete my bus duty.  Somehow I stayed calm and she eventually went inside (only about 30 minutes late for work).

Every few days she would bring up some gripe that she had with me or one of my colleagues.  90% of it was false and it seemed like her attempt to find a scapegoat for all the issues the school was having.  We did our best to maintain composure and keep teaching but when we had merely 6 workdays left we couldn’t take it any more.

The silver lining to all this was that I’ve been moving into my Hyewha apartment every weekend and by our breaking point I was completely moved in.  I’ve got a bigger apartment with a larger kitchen, a balcony, tons of storage and a REAL SHOWER.  My new queen-size bed is set up and had been sleeping there for a few days.  The bad news was I still had 6 days at my hogwon.

CPIS, our school (I use that term loosely) was sold last month and as far as we could tell they were trying to screw us out of our severance and possibly even the last paycheck.  Some of us were threatened with lawsuits, deportation or just plain slander.  We all felt uncomfortable working without a new contract or letter of release; there was no guarantee we’d be paid so we organized a sit in.

Then we found out the school hadn’t been paying rent for 5 of our apartments… for the last 4 months!   Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Still working, still no pay

For those of you following the travesty that is my current workplace I want to reassure you that its still full of things that are so awful that the only thing I can do is laugh.  So yeah, why not call it funny.  Its more politically correct than telling my boss he’s a scumbag(or thief, which I may or may not call him every time he passes me in the hallway.)  Don’t worry, he doesn’t speak English.

Last Friday most of my coworkers met the buyer and future owner of our school. (I took a “sick” day for my birthday).  He allayed some of the fears and spoke a little English but the meat and potatoes of his conversation was still “trust me.”  Maybe he doesn’t need to tell us exactly where he’s getting the money from but he assured everyone that he would be pay us whatever he owes us.  Who pays us depends when the sale actually occurs.  Whoever the owner is on payday is responsible for paying us that paycheck.

The new guy at least showed some signs of intelligence (which the current owner has failed to do) when he mentioned he won’t be buying the company unless all the bills have been paid.  Unfortunately the only difference that made was 2 months worth of pension pay.  We are still owed 3 more months of pension and lets not forget the remaining 2/3 of our latest paychecks.

Most of the teachers have been showing a significant number of Disney movies and doing the bare minimum, perhaps less.  I’ve stopped my centers and phonics lessons.  I do the bare minimum bookwork required and give a lot of playtime.  It makes me a little sad for when I’ll have a job I actually care about and go back to doing real work. Many of us are leaving after our last class rather than desk warming until 6:00 everyday.

I wrote this yesterday, January 21st, our latest “maybe payday” we were told but alas the accountant is MIA.  The CEO is MIA and so are our paychecks.  We’ve lost any remaining faith in this guy’s ability to pay us and are trying to figure out how to best play our cards.

After repeated talks with a lawyer and the ministry of labor their best advice is to keep working and file a formal complaint.  The only problem is the formal complaint puts our jobs in jeopardy so we thought we’d wait until March so we don’t get fired early.

Today we found out the CEO told the Koreans we’d be paid “Friday or maybe next week.”  In the foreigner meeting they told us we’d be paid “maybe tomorrow.”  This contradiction increases the feeling of being strung along.  Oh and did I mention the CEO has fled the country?  Maybe he’s on a business trip?  Maybe he’s on vacation?  Maybe he’s putting all our money into a Swiss bank account?  All I know is I don’t trust him.

I don’t know what to do but I told the principal I am going to the ministry of labor first thing in February if we aren’t paid.  Plus I decided to leave a note in the CEO’s office for whenever (if) he returns.

I just keep telling myself 23 more days!

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CPIS = awful hagwon = 28 more days!

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.”

28 more days!

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.

Continue reading

My new mantra – “2 more months!”

I apologize for interrupting your regularly scheduled programming of travel and leisure to bring you back to a show we recently canceled and are re-airing as “2 more months!”  At least this time my principals had the good will to inform us first thing in the morning that we wouldn’t be paid on time.  We “might get paid by Thursday” when the 5th was technically payday at CPIS.

In other news we also found out the owner/CEO (aka guy who causes all the problems) has been stealing our pensions.  Yep, he takes it from our paycheck but not only fails to deposit his matching share but fails to deposit anything into our pension accounts.  The pension money isn’t a huge sum but its even more of a slap in the face from this asshole.

The sliver of good news was that we were given permission to have “more play time” today; you better believe every student had a blast today.  Even without the most recent salary shenanigans we were all beat from our trips and planned for an easy day.   I’m fighting off what I hope is simply a cold I brought back from the Philippines and I know I wasn’t alone in being exhausted on this lovely Monday morning.

At the end of the day I was planning on meeting with my coworkers to discuss our plan of action when the director called me into her office.  Her first order of business was a suggestion from the accountant that she deduct the airfare from my salary to which I flat out refused.  I reminded her that there was no chance of any transaction without a documented receipt and used this as an segway to bring up the pensions.

“I have to check my pension and my paycheck but based on some of my coworkers it appears that [the owner] has been deducting our pensions from our monthly pay but failing to deposit the money in our actual pension.  That’s stealing.  I understand the school may be having troubles and while I am quite angry the paychecks are delayed, again, I can understand.  He is blatantly stealing our pensions and we won’t stand for it.” Continue reading