Got a stinking ear infection.

Annoyingly I don’t know how I got it, and It is taking a while to go away.
It all started when I woke up the other night with a terrible pain covering the right side of my face, I got back to sleep, but when I woke up, I had a really blocked up right ear.

My face felt like It had taken I blow from a heavyweight boxer.

There’s some really weird bugs going around here and although I’ve built up a resistance I have had my fair share or sickness.
I have been taking some powerful anti-biotics for the last 4 days and my ear is getting better allbeit rather slowly. Bought these over the counter from the local chemist, no need to bother with a prescription.
Infact you can buy many types of powerful antibiotics without a prescription, just hand over the cash and that’s it.

I just wonder how long it is before some terribe bacteria develops that’s built up a resistance to all of the antibiotics?
The Chinese lax attitude to selling them can only make this problem worse.

Contract Details

I’m not ‘supposed’ to divulge any information about the particulars of the contract that I had with Star Education, however, when they disregard the contract and refused to pay me – any legal or moral authority they had, or may have had in my eyes, vanished.

12. Party B hereby pledges to keep to keep the content of this contract only known by party A
and Party B. If party B was found letting out content of this contract, 2000RMB will be punished from the tickets reimbursement.

So I signed a confidentiality agreement attached as part of my employment contract, of course this is totally uninforcable and is basically a way my former employer can keep 2000元 back from my final salary.
This is not a standard clause and I have never seen it before in a teaching contract in China. And normally with a confidentality agreement, the employer pays you to be quiet not the other way around. This raised concerns for me at the time, but I foolishly thought it would be okay

So stuff what the contract says, and if they want to try to enforce it – BE MY GUEST (like I said it was them who didn’t pay me).

Anyway this is China, contracts are not like the ones we have in the west. Here they are more like guidelines, or better still a promissory note between employer and employee. Here the employer is king – the Foreign exit/entry dept at the PSB will not help you (even though it’s supposed to be their jobs) and as i’ve experienced it will probably backfire onto you.
The chinese don’t like it when a foreigner blows-the-whistle (loss of face) and this is a culture that does not welcome individuals speaking up for themselves – especially outsiders.

Arbitration is also worthless (in Changchun at least) and could and probably will backfire on the Foreign teacher.

It’s all about relationships or guanxi (关系). Who you know, a friend of a friend – can they help you – can you help them. And of course, Company bosses inevitably have more guanxi than the Foreign Teacher- who probably isn’t even sure how guanxi works.

So you can forget doing anything about it legally.

Huge multinational companies reguarly take their Chinese competitors to court for copyright violations.
A good example of this is GM, who unsuccessfully sued SAIC (they people who were going to buy Rover) for copying design patents for their QQ car.
In a country with a free and independent judiciary this would be a cut and dry case – some parts of the QQ were identical and interchangeable with those on the GM model – now if that’s not copying then I don’t know what is!

My point being the Chinese tend to side with the Chinese even if its obvious that they are in the wrong, it’s just the way that it is.

The Chinese legal system is chronically underdeveloped compared to a western country. There are quite simply not enough courts, not enough judges (no juries here!) and cases are taken based on their importance. Infact there is no right to go to court in China, you have the right to petition that is ask to go to court. To do this, takes time and money, lots of time and money. I have heard the backlog for some cases can run up to 10 years.
So a contractual dispute isn’t going to be at the top of their priorities, even if a petition were granted and both parties were around long enough to see the trial.

Here’s a breakdown to some of the more interesting parts of the contract that I had with Star Education. I hope anyone who is considering working for them (or any other teaching company in changhcun) reconsider now!

With a 1 year or 2 semester contract (September-July) you have to expect return airfare paid. At 长师 i was paid 5000 yuan once i arrived (one way) and the other 5000 yuan at the end of the contract in July. Sometimes they will give you the one way money once you have finished your first semester- to stop those rogue teachers that take the cash then vanish.

Star offers a poultry 525 yuan per month payable at the end of the contract. I had a 10 month contract with them, and so they would pay me 5250 yuan come the end. 5250 yuan is not enough for a return ticket to the UK even if you buy your ticket here.

5.1 After Party B fulfil the contract, Party A will reimburse Part B a Round trip air ticket, according to the actual price of the ticket at the time, from Beijing to the country of Party B (which should not exceed 5250RMB)

Of course there is no guarantee you’ll get this, and based on their prior dealings with me, it’s pretty bloody unlikely you’ll even see 1 fen of it!
Afterall once you’ve completed the contract, you’ve lost any quid-pro-quo you might have had.

When I signed, I signed assuming that I would never see this money – even if i completed the contract.

Another little scam they have is to pay you on the 10th of every month but only pay you for the last calander month.

4.3 Party B will receive wages of the classes he/she has taught in one month ( 1st to 30th or 31st)
4.5 Party B will be paid on the 10th of each month

I though nothing of this at the time, but i now know this is a common tactic used with chinese workers. It means that you will have to work 10 days in the month before you receive your pay for the previous month.

Which translates : if you want to quit after payday (why would you do that????) , you will lose out on 10 days pay. But more malevolently it means you may never see your last months 10 days pay. It is a classic retention clause on the part of the employer and totally unfair and illegal – but as you probably grasped, that doesn’t mean much!

There’s some more good information on Chinese teaching contracts here and here

Dinner time, i’m hungry.

More on the contract to come later…..

What Happened?

Now that the dust has settled and that I am now in a safe position oncemore, I feel able to explain what has happened to me over the last few weeks.

So I quit my job. Left. Hit the road. Moved on.

I considered it imprudent to remain in my former employ for numerious reasons, and I scented this might happen some time ago; so I had to have a plan B. I will not publish what my plan B is, just yet, but in a few weeks time.

Anyway, here’s my account of what happened.

So in early November I got into a really bad situation through no fault of my own and was faced with having to get a new (legal) job. Unfortunately there were very few options available to me at the time, either to go with this one company or to go home. Simple as that.

So I chose the former, and to be honest, I have been regretting that decision for the last three months.
The company whom I was working for is called

Jilin Star International Education Institution

(四达国际教育) or chang chun si da .

As I posted before, they are legally allowed to hire foreigners and have about 30 ‘foreign’ teachers on their books.

The company has foreign managers to add an air of legitimacy for those teachers who are new to China.
Star Education has many other interests besides Foreign Teachers, it works with getting people into foreign universites – especially in New Zealand and Australia.

Don’t be fooled by the friendly foreign faces, the company is Chinese and run by Chinese people and so still operates in a very cut-throat screw you way.

Of course, they are very friendly and nice to you in person and on an individual basis i’m sure they are nice people. But as with many of my experinces here, when money (i.e salary) comes into the equation they become like a different animal, hiding behind the ‘companies interests’ .

Despite the name, this is a recruiting and farming out agency and has no school of it’s own. The company operates by placing foreign teachers into various (and mostly) government run schools; primary and middle schools that don’t have the capacity to get foreign teachers themselves.

The company makes money by getting foreigners to work for say 20 hours per week and paying the employee per the MINUTES you have in the classroom. So the company gets 150 yuan per class, and pays the teacher 62 yuan per hour. 5000 yuan/ 80 hours a month (20p/w) = 62 RMB.
So 20hours a week is more like 30hours when you factor in that most periods are 40-45minutes per class. Not to mention the amount of UNPAID travelling between classes at different locations – it soon adds up.

For example, you may have class from 8-9.30 and from 10-11.30 in the morning. Two classes, the whole morning gone – you will only get paid for 3 hours work, then you may (like me) have another two hours of class from 2-4 in the afternoon.

So come the end of the day you woke up before 7, and get home after 5 and you only get paid for 5 hours work. This makes you feel as if you are being cheated (And I am not the only one, many of the other teachers at Star also feel this way)

Remeber though that you work for the company, not the school, so you will have to work in different locations often more than one location each day. And don’t expect a weekend like the university teachers, 6 days a week is normal.

This is how the companies operate, and the lack of a regular schdule is a total KILLER on the Foreign teachers free time. You will also get phone calls asking you to work at very short notice; tomorrow, or this afternoon – and if you refuse – you’ll get another call from the boss – all very intimidating.
Essentailly you -the Foreign teacher- will be treated like a commodity, you basic rights will be infringed and it will make you very unhappy. Of course the company will not understand your plight, it’s not in their interest to support YOUR interests at the detriment of what they see as raw PROFIT.

For me that’s the crux of the arguement, Profit and greed on the part of the company. Screw the Foreigner, hire some newbee who doesn’t know, screw him, hire another etc etc etc. High staff turnover, Fast Buck – makes me sick!

So be aware!!!

However I knew this would probably happen before I signed the contract, though I never assumed it could be quite so bad. And I thought I could tough-it-out. I thought wrong.

I could just about put up with the above, but what did it for me was when they started to mess around with my salary. Not being paid my rent money was the catalyst for my leaving the company. Maybe I was looking for an excuse to leave, however It is imperative that I protect my own interests FIRST. Especially in China, as a foreign teacher- I cannot allowed myslef to be messed around oncemore.

I later learned that the reason for Star education wanting to not pay my rent money is that the company has no reserve funds, and so by depriving 30 Teachers of 800 yuan they can save 24000 yuan – that can be used to pay bills/salaries/bosses salaries etc…

Hearing this further reinforces my opinion that I made the right move.

I’m back!

I’m writing this entry from a net cafe at lunch time. Many, many things have happened over the last two months, some good some not so good.

The Updates have been rather sparse recently, mainly due to my intransigence and bad mood. I haven’t had the will to write anything much less log on the net, type, add pictures etc…

Christmas, the new year and the Spring festival have all passed by. I worked on Christmas day, and the new year was also pretty low key. I spent most of Janyary working at a local primary school, wasn’t much fun and I really loathed having to get up at 6.30 to go and do it. Of course I wasn’t meant to do any childrens classes after the new year, but they said they had no other teachers, so I did them a favour, and grudgingly obliged.

The School I was working at is quite a good school out in the east of the city, but that said, it’s still a primary school. Looking back I’m glad that I have the experience of doing this, it makes me really appreciate just how much better it was last year teaching at 长师。 I used to think there were problems there, but it pales into insignificance compared to some of the things I have had to face in the past few months.

So come the end of January the Spring Festival was upon us. Two weeks of fireworks – or more accuratly – insendury devices exploding morning noon and night. I remember this from last year, and it’s really quite spectacular. Especially on night of the new year, when come midnight, the night sky is constantly lit-up for at least 2 hours by multitudes of fireworks. Really quite special, and there is nothing quite like it back home – Bonfire night doesn’t even come close!

However, after 2 weeks of banging and being woken up at 4am by explosions large enough to destroy a small farm, it gets rather annoying.

I bought some great fireworks, spent about 100元 total. Two long bazooka looking devices, one red stick of TNT (I kid you not!!) , a bag of little green mock hand-grenades, some 3000 red bangers strapped together and something akin to a Roman candle. This was more like a Roman firebomb, I almost killed myself by not retiring the full 1000 metres as required – was incredibly loud, i couldn’t hear much the next morning, except a high pitched ringing sound. Now I fully understand why these things are illegal in the UK!

So the Spring festival was a welcome break from teaching and allowed me time to re-focus my energy elsewhere; namely, what to do next semester. My job wasn’t what i had been led-to-expect, and it was making me feel really unhappy about things.

So I decided that I was no longer going to work with kids, full stop.

I could just walk-away, afterall it’s a good time of year for jobs, and the perfect time to start studying for the new semester. But at the time I thought it prudent to keep in my employers good-books and not piss him off by resigning or vanishing into thin air.

However my decision was made for me when a couple of days into February I got a call from him. He said that there was no work available during Feb (except kids classes at god-awful qinguha) and that he suggested I take the ‘month-off’. I said that ‘you leave me with little choice’ so i took the month off. He then went on to say they would be unable to pay for my apartment, because, I was having the ‘month-off’.

This was the final straw, and is what ultimately led to my leaving the company.
(Lesson learned: NEVER work for a company dealing with foreigm teachers in Changchun. They are all money grabbing opportunists who prey upon naive first timers/those that can’t get work elsewhere/those that have no other choice at the time (me) Please take it from me, AVOID AVOID AVOID )

So he wanted me to have the ‘month-off’ at my own expense, and still continue to honour the contract for the next semester。I think not. You can’t cherrypick which parts of the contract to enforce and which parts to ignore. You most certainly can’t threaten your teachers with visa-cancellation if they refuse to continue to work, as they did when I said i can no longer work if you keep on moving the goal posts when it suits you.
Anyway, as of last wednesday I disappeared. I changed my phone number and moved on. I said nothing of my future plans to anyone and just upped-sticks; gone.

It’s all very sad that this is how things have to be done, but doing things ‘the right way’ or as you would back home (i.e go to the authorities) , cuts no mustard here. I learnt that before and i’m not about to make the same mistake twice.
Will post more exact details later!

BTW for those that want to know My QQ address is: 125873000