March 18, 2011

Someone asked me recently, what gets me upset.

I may have already answered that question, but I’m going to go further.

I consider myself a pretty decent person. I don’t try to go out of my way to piss people off. I try to maintain friendships, and try to keep people, especially co-workers and managers, from thinking badly of me.

I try to do my work to the best of my abilities. I get to work on time, and rarely take time off. I don’t go out of my way to make my students or fellow teachers upset. Sure, once in a while, tiffs will happen. That’s a fact of life. Hell, my cats can’t even get along EVERY day!

When I first got here in Tainan in 2003, I was working through an agent, and in particular, with two different schools. Each had asked me, when I was heading home to Vancouver for a holiday, that should I return and work with them, they would in return, pay me the sum they were paying the agent.

Great! It ended up the beginning of a relationship back home, but in retrospect, perhaps it was worth it. I enjoyed the work I was doing here, enjoyed seeing the students learn from my knowledge, and since then, seeing some of these students going on to greater things.

The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for, was that I would end up dealing with an organization that was willing to take advantage of me.

Now, let me explain a couple of things here. I feel that I am not the ‘typical’ foreign teacher. I do all my lesson planning at home. I have copies (normally, purchased by ME) of all the teacher manuals and students books I need for my classes. Any copies of materials I need for my students, I do myself on (now) two printers. I have never asked for reimbursement from any of my schools for any materials I use. To me, this is the cost of my ‘business’ here in Taiwan.

After the second year, one of my schools had asked if I could take a pay cut for a year, so they could get a new location up and running. In return, they did find me a few other jobs, but at the same time, decreased the number of hours I was working. In retrospect, I should have never accepted this offer. I was under the impression that they were acting in good faith.

Over the years, my hours were decreased dramatically. Where in the beginning, I was working over 15 hours a week, of late, I had been dropped to 1 hour per week. I was expected to make up classes that were cancelled because of various reasons – national holidays, my being sick, or the school cancelling classes for one reason or another.

No other teacher is expected to ‘make up’ classes, however, I was. Again, I did so because they were the school that held my ARC. In other words, they were the school that hired me and allowed me to work and live in Taiwan. Even though I tried to explain some of these situations as unfair, it met with deaf ears. My hours were thus lowered again, forcing me to find other employment elsewhere.

Last year, in September 2010, I returned home for a holiday. I hadn’t seen my family in over 10 years, and this was my first, long-term trip back to Canada. Sure, I had taken a couple of holidays in the past, for a couple of weeks, but this was the first time I took almost a month.

During all these years with them, not at any time, did they deduct the required taxes as set down by law. As well, businesses who hire foreign workers (teachers or others) are required to make sure the worker has proper medical coverage, and worker insurance. Again, this was never given me.

Before returning home in September, I was told that I had to pay a huge sum to the federal government of Taiwan for taxes for the years 2008 and 2009! As a) I was going home for a holiday and b) had never been advised that taxes were never remitted, I requested that the school pay these taxes for me. After a heated argument, it was agreed that they would pay the taxes, but that I had to repay THEM upon my arrival back to Taiwan.

Then, to make matters worse, I discovered that over the years, even though I was paid WAY below the ‘acceptable’ level as set down by the Government of Taiwan, they had reported my income as almost 10x what I was actually earning!

The next thing, was they wanted to cancel the contract I had with them, because they didn’t want me to work with them any longer. They expected me to find another organization to take over my ARC. Luckily, that was not a problem.

Shortly thereafter, I received “T4” slips stating that I had earned over 270,000nt in 2010! Considering I was only working approximately 2.5 hours per week, at a very, very reduced rate, I asked that they redo the slips to reflect the proper earnings of just over 32,000nt for the year. They refused.

What alternative did I have? I had to go to the Taxation Office of Taiwan, and show them my ‘pay stubs’ of actual earnings given. Compared to the reported income by the school, there was definitely a problem. The Taxation Office then requested that I show them all my ‘pay stubs’ for the previous years. Here we go… an audit.

Of course, they then contacted the employer and told them that I was initiating this audit. I am a foreigner! How can I initiate an audit on local company? Nonetheless, that was what the school told me. They wanted me to go back and ‘apologize’ to the Taxation Office, and all would be forgiven. I asked once again, for them to redo the tax forms to indicate the proper amount of income. No!

Proposal time. I gave them a proposal that would hopefully, be agreed upon. I agreed to take whatever measures were involved to stop everything. However, after 4 weeks of waiting for a response, I still have not heard anything from them.

Again, I now had no choice but to take this matter one step further. Off to the Employment Standards Branch of the City of Tainan.

So, what get me pissed off? People that INTENTIONALLY want to make their own lives easier at the expense of others.

I don’t like liars. I don’t like cheaters. A couple of years ago, this school had the opportunity to forfeit my ARC and have another school take it over. However, because they didn’t want to pay the standard rate for a foreign teacher, and wanted particular hours to be blocked by them, as they would be the main employer, they didn’t want to give up what they had with me.

I should have wisened up to their tactics then. Then again, they did have the ARC, and were once again, my ‘boss’. Had I been able to see into the future, I would have stopped all this way back then.

I never intended for this to go as far as it has. I have now reported to the Taxation Office and the Employment Standards Office. My next step, should it need to go further, will be legal action. Enough is enough! I have been ripped off for over 6 years, and I expect compensation.

I’ve been told that this is not, “… the Taiwan way…” Well, maybe “… the Taiwan way…” needs to be changed. Am I ready for a long drawn-out battle. Why not!

That’s it, that’s all… for now!


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