Monday, September 19, 2011

"Measures are necessary for the protection of native speakers"

Yes, you read that correctly. On September 16 Newsis published the following article:
Measures against the unfair dismissal of "insignificant native speaking instructors" urgently needed

As the great damage done by unfair dismissal of native speaking teachers teaching English at Daegu area language hagwons comes to light, there is demand for improved treatment of them.

According to the Daegu Office of Education, there are currently 476 language hagwons in the city and around 1300 native speaking teachers teaching English in hagwons and public schools.

However, cases are coming to light of teachers who, while carrying out their work, have not properly received the bonus of a month's pay and the plane ticket home specified by the provisions of their contract due to their being dismissed before their contract expires.

They are at a great disadvantage when some hagwons abuse [their rights] and, when giving notice of dismissal before the contract has ended, do not pay their salary, bonus or plane ticket home.

In some cases hagwons give 3 formal warnings to native speakers, and when it becomes known that they are taking steps to dismiss the teacher based on the arbitrary decision that the instructor's behavior has not changed, there is suspicion that employment regulations are being abused.

Under labour law, when giving notice of dismissal, it must be given at least 45 days in advance and it is specified that the salary must be paid based on the amount of time that has been worked up to that point, and bonuses provided by the countract must also be paid, but these hagwons abuse their authority and give notice just a month or weeks before.

However, most native speakers who suffer unfair dismissal are not able to properly deal with such conduct by hagwons and are unable to wait the long time needed for the results of the labour law's protections, and forego their salary and pay their own way home.

For this reason, experienced and competent instructors avoid being hagwon teachers and due to this it is difficult to provide high quality English education.

As a result, when considering our country's educational reality which requires native speaking teachers, it is urgent that measures be prepared such as organizing related agencies into a task force to reduce the damage being done.

Also, it's pointed out that to prevent damage to efficient foreign language education, inviting verified native speaking teachers and also institutional protection of these teachers is needed.

G (30), a Korean American working at an English hagwon in Daegu, complained of unfairness, saying, "I worked for one year, but one week before my contract finished I was given notice of termination due to poor teaching, and in the end I left without receiving my salary, bonus, or plane ticket."

J (27), a female teacher from Canada, complained that, "I was moving from a hagwon to a public school and turned down an offer to re-sign at the hagwon, so they did not pay me properly, and I didn't receive a months pay or my bonus."

An official at a recruiting agency for native speakers said, "Of course, hagwons are not 100% at fault. Problems occur due to native speakers as well, but harming native speakers through unfair dismissal brings disgrace to the country."

An official at the Ministry of Labour said, "Although native speakers are protected by our country's labour law while working in Korea, there are limits to what can be done. Because of this, measures are necessary for the protection of native speakers."

Meanwhile, if native speaking teachers are registered with recruiters, they can ask for help and report hagwons.

When reporting someone, after the Ministry of Labour receives notice of unfair dismissal and once the Labour Relations Committee has investigated and found it to be unfair dismissal, according to our country's Labor Standards Act, the hagwon is notified that the teacher must be reinstated or be paid the amount of salary owed based on amount worked as well as receive compensation for the time not worked due to dismissal.

In this case, if the hagwon fails to carry out these instructions, they will have to pay substantial fines of 5 - 10 million won to force them to comply.
Two articles (including this one) painting foreign English teachers as victims of corrupt hagwons in one year? That's got to be a record. It's certainly a welcome change. And it's nice to see the equation being made between unfair treatment by hagwons and Korea being made to look bad, as well as the point that it drives out good teachers and harms English education (such as it is).


kushibo said...

Two articles (including this one) painting foreign English teachers as victims of corrupt hagwons in one year? That's got to be a record. It's certainly a welcome change.

Your sarcasm aside, the general trajectory for English teachers has been for things to get easier and more convenient over the years, with the background checks and HIV testing being a notable exception.

I've been living in Seoul off and on since I was a teenager, and I remember when it took people two months to get visas and you had to LEAVE THE COUNTRY for that period of time to get it. They couldn't legally work second jobs of any kind, they couldn't own property, and a male being married to a Korean female offered no special status whatsoever. At the same time there were precious few organizations of any kind (Labor boards, ku-level legal advice sessions, etc.) that offered help for people who didn't get paid their bonuses or what-not. Foreign nationals were not allowed in the National Health Insurance Corporation system at all.

And all these changes came when the Korean public and politicos became aware of them.

Andrew said...

"substantial fines of 5 - 10 million won"

The fines should be increased. 5 million isn't much if you skip a bonus and plane ticket.

Turner said...


Anonymous said...

Just saw some pigs flying outside my office window.