Thursday, January 21, 2010

Those Slippery Cunts at Caledonian ... and Kraplan!

Once again the Sandy McManus network of Tefl spies returns results - John le Carre would be proud of me, I swear! Well, maybe not ... Anyway, I have tied in this item of current dodgy-doings with some similar tales of Tefl shysterism from about 18 months ago. Enjoy the read, and feel free to add any comments or updated information if you wish.

First - Caledonian English, Prague. Agent D reports that one of his informants is working there, and not having a good time of it at all. Not only is the salary derisory -barely enough to pay for a can of beans each day, apparently - but they're basically just an agency dressed up as a bona fide employer. As such, they have devised a clever little wangle, a legal loophole you might even say, regarding the payment of holiday pay. They argue that as the main company is registered in Switzerland, which isn't part of the EU, they do not have to abide by EU law - and can therefore duck out of paying any holiday pay at all. Sneaky, eh?

My first reaction to this is "What a load of bollocks!". For surely, if the Caledonian School is operating in an EU country, they need to follow EU employment rules. However, I'll do a bit more digging and find out. In fact, I tried to do some 'research' into Caledonian myself, but only came across the hardly-startling fact that they have been dissed as "notorious" for having illegally employed American teachers in Prague. But what EFL school in Prague doesn't do that?!

Anyway, compliant with this surprisingly unexpected topic of EFL schools being cavalier with the law, here are a couple of related items from Summer 2008, courtesy (more or less) of the EL Gazette ...

*******

Kaplan, the educational giant owned by the Washington Post Group, has admitted knowingly breaking European employment law. In an internal document circulated at its UK subsidiary Kaplan Aspect, the company explained that holiday pay would continue to be included ('rolled up') in the hourly rate paid to teachers, despite this practice being illegal in the European Union.

An extract from the document notes that"it is true that the European Court of Justice has ruled this practice to be 'unlawful' ... However, the practical ramifications of accruing holiday pay for hourly paid workers according to this principle [the court ruling] are complex and unworkable."

Kaplan, which last year had an estimated turnover of US$2 billion, is not the only educational institution operating in the European Union to have failed to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling. There is clear evidence that the practice of rolling up holiday pay remains widespread throughout the EU's language school industry. In fact, the UK government's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has stated that "Rolled-up holiday pay is unlawful. Payment for statutory annual leave should be made at a time when leave is taken."

The most interesting thing here is that, although the company have grudgingly admitted that they've been breaking the law for years, they seem to be in no great rush to put their house in order. "Complex and unworkable!" they cry, the poor dears!! Even worse, other TEFL Timelords appear to be equally lax, if not bewildered by the whole notion of 'holiday pay' at all, and one of them has rather pompously declaimed that "in our sector I'm not sure how one would actually define it. Perhaps it isn't an applicable concept."

Or perhaps they just can't be bothered to get their tiny little Tefl minds around the grand idea of … giving teachers what the law states they should have. Hard to define? Not applicable? I find that all rather ludicrous – don't you?! Shame on them, the stingy bastards!!

And the next one, please! Yes, it's our old mate EF, the Tesco's of the Tefl industry, the Walmart of the whiteboards. Would you believe they've been found guilty of … stitching up their freshly-recruited teachers! I know, it seems so uncharacteristic of them, dunnit?!

Language schools in the US and the UK who recruit teachers for schools abroad may find themselves in breach of US or UK law if the contracts offered by the schools overseas break employment law at home. This point has been brought into focus by a UK investigation of a contract issued by English First (EF) in Russia, believed to be a franchise of the EF chain. A clause in EF Russia's contract of employment makes its teachers liable for the costs of their recruitment and replacement if they are dismissed or leave before the contract ends. The contract is for 'Native Full-time Teacher Recruited Abroad', and EF have stated that both American and British teachers are hired to work in Russia by its UK arm in Manchester, England.

The UK government's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has stated that British agencies recruiting staff for overseas have a duty of care when they fly them out to ensure they get them back, so that employees are not left stranded. BERR felt that the requirement to pay back recruitment costs is likely to be an 'unlawful detriment'.


Nice phrase, that, isn't it - 'unlawful detriment'. Now, I don't think there would be many experienced Teflers who would deny that EF itself operates to the detriment of the EFL business as a whole, but that's just an aside. Anyway, when asked to comment on the matter of their illegal activities, one of EF's lickspittles wriggled out of his tight corner by dryly commenting that "we are currently under investigation by a government body [so] it is inappropriate for us to comment further at this time." Fuggin' worm!!

However, the fact remains that any EF teacher who quits or is sacked even one week before having completed the contract will be held liable to repay ten per cent of their recruitment and replacement costs. My Christ! It almost makes working for Shane seem like a good alternative!!

25 comments:

loverboy said...

The EU law shall be on EU website. Check and see if CZ implement and specific how. Words like "should" en "must" very very important. Then is task for CZ ministry. U can get name from committee man in Brussel if CZ drama bureaucracy. If CZ ministry bureaucrat say "Toss off", then EU person be involved.

SM, yes, if working in CZ as employee then employer must do CZ law. Freelancer different with loopyhole. CZ suck, no? High social task.

Devil said...

tax NOT TASK!

TEFL makes me feel like a secret agent. said...

I know a couple of natives who escaped from Prague and are now in hiding in Poland, I'll lean on them and try to find out what schools than ran out on...

The TEFL Tradesman said...

I'd appreciate that info., Mr Secret Agent. Also, any hot poop on Caledonian would be greatly appreciated - financial chicanery, mismanagement, etc.

So far NOBODY from Caledonian has popped up here to defend them, so I guess we can assume that they are the typical Tefl shysters.

Time to give them a mention on Dave's ESL Cafe too, I guess...

Anonymous said...

slightly different subject there's a blog post about a couple of americans who were refused visa entries and a subsequent meeting with the MD of Caledonian schools. last paragraph suggests they're pretty slippery but have no experience of them myself.

see here: http://rickyyates.com/tag/caledonian-school/

Anonymous said...

a couple of reviews on Caledonian here:

http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Caledonian-School-Reviews-E215716.htm

The TEFL Tradesman said...

That's some very interesting stuff there - I recommend you all go read it. Thanks very much for sending the two URLs, Anon.

What's very clear here is that there's plenty of scope for more digging about the slippery cunts at Caledonian. I feel I might be busy over the next few days!

k-m-s said...

SuperSandy to rescue!

Yanks should maybe talk to goed CZ immigration lawyer. Maybe self-employed visa is easier--and beter for money and freedom.

Ki Say Um said...

Maybe big Caledonian school include 'self employed' on contract, but way down after you stop reading.

The Windsor Swindler said...

Oh dear - Caledonian seem to have popped up here, on St. Dave's...

##http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=78523&sid=f51e12723ac0979c94dba21e38837935

...and it's not looking very nice!

ANDREW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The TEFL Tradesman said...

So it's meltdown at Caledonian, is it?! Just add your comments below, dear employees, and let us all know how bad things have become.

Wackford Squeers said...

Word coming out of Caledonian HQ says that people are "leaving in droves". (Must say I prefer a taxi myself) Apparently, it used to be a good place to work at, even though the pay wasn't too good.

However, the present manager has been described as 'clueless' by many of the departing Ts. I would have thought that was the ideal attribute for the manager of a language school?!

Anonymous said...

If you are a teacher looking for work, Caledonian School in Prague should be avoided for the following reasons:

1. THEY LIE ON THE WEBSITE ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU WILL MAKE: They claim that you will earn between 15,000czk and 20,000czk per month on their website. However, given the rate of pay (178czk per teaching hour, which they don't tell you until you get to Prague), it is actually impossible to even earn 15,000, the low end, with the 20 teaching hours they guarantee you. In addition, they do not protect you against student cancellations, so if your students cancel, and they often do, you are left with much less. For example, a teacher I knew worked over 30 teaching hours a week and ended up with an average of only 13,000czk at the end of each month, which is much less than people working the register at Tesco make and is simply not a living wage. This is disgraceful considering that some companies pay 1,000czk for a 90 minute lesson.

2. THEY DO NOT HONOR THEIR CONTRACTS: Recently they decided to cut their teacher's pay by 5% and cancel the yearly bonus of 2% pay increase. They got around the legally binding contracts with their employees by essentially forcing teachers, who rely on them for visas and live paycheck to paycheck, to sign a new contract.

3. THEY LIE ABOUT THE NUMBER OF HOURS YOU WILL BE TEACHING: The truth is that though you only work 20 "teaching hours", you will be running all over the city without being paid for it. In truth you will be working more than full time because you will have to travel an average of 45 minutes to an hour between each lesson. Many of your lessons will begin before 8am and end well after 5pm, plus travel time.

5: THEY LIE ABOUT VISA SUPPORT: They bring people from abroad to the Czech Republic, often through the TEFL program, offering a promise of visa support. However, it is illegal to enter the Czech Republic on a tourist visa and then apply for a work visa. You must apply from your home country. They get around this by paying off the foreign police or getting people they know at the embassy to bend the rules. The problem with this is that it's not 100% effective, and every so often a whole group of people applying for their visas are sent home under threat of deportation when their 3 month tourist stay runs out. These unlucky teachers have the additional joy of potentially being banned from Europe for 3 years for overstaying their visas and working illegally.

6. THEY LIE ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE: They are required by law to provide you with health insurance. They promise that they provide it as a part of their benefits package. However, what they call "insurance" is a system of repayment where you must pay for your medical expenses out of your own pocket and hope that the school will pay you back. This "insurance" does not include dental, ongoing conditions, or preventative care. Plus, you can only go to one remote hospital's emergency room. As the law requires you to have real insurance, you must show proof of it when you apply for your visa. Again, Caledonian finds people who will bend the rules for them, which doesn't always work.

7. THEY USE A LOOPHOLE IN THE LAW TO DEPRIVE YOU OF BENEFITS: They are registered as a UK company, which means that they can get around giving you the benefits that all people in the Czech Republic enjoy by law, like holiday time and benefit credits for meals, etc.

I've never spoken to a happy teacher at Caledonian School. In Prague they have a reputation for being the worst school to work for. Most teachers leave within the first year, which is in the school's best interest, since they make so much money off of their TEFL course owing to the job guarantee. This is unfortunate because the TEFL certificate that you receive from Caledonian is not as well respected as most other programs (i.e. CELTA).

If you are coming to Prague to teach or to take a TEFL course, please research other schools. There are better options.

WACKFORD SQUEERS said...

All of the above is spot on. At Caledonian not only is the pay so far below the average (completely poverty line situation), but even that's not a certainty, as you get up at 6 in the morning to find out most of the lessons are cancelled, and you dont' get paid for that.
At the moment there's a mass exodus, and the director of studies has also left.

Moral of the tale: AVOID CALEDONIAN!!

Jojo Bizarro said...

Their TEFL course is no less a joke, as is their so-called “job guarantee”! It wasn’t a complete waste of €1500, since I did learn some good things from the one trainer who was actually professional. The other two were a joke! One was always talking down to me like I was a child, always forgetting that I was 40 years old at the time, not 10. The third, who was British, was far beyond unprofessional, making silly doodles of us being killed on our teaching evaluations if our teaching wasn’t absolutely perfect and consistently insulting my country, the United States of America, by calling it “the colonies.” Now I’m no flag-waving ├╝berpatriot, but I don’t take too kindly to such insults.

Furthermore, there is no “job guarantee,” which is what you get if you get at least PASS 2. I checked other places offering TEFL certification without a job guarantee, and they have no such terms as PASS 1, PASS 2 or PASS 3, which means Caledonian made these pass levels up themselves. So PASS 3 really means “You know your stuff, but we just don’t like you personally.” It’s just a scam.

Andrea said...

Hi JoJo,

I think I may be the 'beyond unprofessional' trainer you refer to. I am certainly a person who does 'silly' doodles on feedback sheets. I take my life and my work quite seriously and I would really benefit from corresponding with or meeting with you at some time in the future to talk in more detail about your experiences of my 'doddling' and the offence(s) that I may have caused. I am only a bear of little brain and I have no idea if this particular website will enable you to make contact with me. For personal reasons (and no other) I choose not to make my email address public here but I would welcome further contact with you. Regardless I wish you well in whatever you choose to do. Kind regards. Andrea Downing.

Khalifa Exile said...

'Krapland' have moved into the Middle East, and they are advertising their miserable jobs in the UAE on Dave's ESL Cafe.

Not only are their salaries about 50% below the going rate, the range of poor salaries they quote is actually misleading. The top salaries are only offered to those applicants who have previous Krapland experience - and who works for Krapland twice?!?

Of course, you don't find out this little point until you've been offered a job, though - sneaky, eh?

Anonymous said...

The reason why they are not replying to these comments is the management's inability to speak decent English.
Their main company is registered in Jersey (UK).
Yes, the salary is crap. Just to give you an example, one hour pay equals to one coffee in Starbucks.
I worked for them for a year, up until March 2011.

Anonymous said...

About the post above, I forgot to mention I was talking about Caledonian School...
My apologies, tired and sleepy...

William Frederickson said...

Again it seems that EF have become involved with a shoddy TEFL outfit. So their 2006-2007 involvement with Paul 'Defuckation' Lowe's infamous Windsor TEFL teacher-training establishment was simply par for the idiomatic course.Interesting...

Anonymous said...

The "anonymous" poster who claimed the following about Caledonian:

5: THEY LIE ABOUT VISA SUPPORT: They bring people from abroad to the Czech Republic, often through the TEFL program, offering a promise of visa support. However, it is illegal to enter the Czech Republic on a tourist visa and then apply for a work visa. You must apply from your home country. They get around this by paying off the foreign police or getting people they know at the embassy to bend the rules. The problem with this is that it's not 100% effective, and every so often a whole group of people applying for their visas are sent home under threat of deportation when their 3 month tourist stay runs out. These unlucky teachers have the additional joy of potentially being banned from Europe for 3 years for overstaying their visas and working illegally."

Wrong, wrong, WRONG! Oh, shut the fuck up already. You clearly don't understand the visa application scheme for Schengen states. 3rd country nationals come and get 3 months on tourist visa. During this time they go outside of CZ and then apply for work visa at foreign CZ embassy. Totally legal, and is in fact cited on the CZ Schengen website. Stop fucking lying, asswipe. There is so much lies and misinformation on this topic, ostensibly to keep Americans from coming over to work. So fuck you for more lies and misinformation.

Finally, this is not to defend Caledonian which is, without question a most unethical and asshole invested ESL racket.

David said...

Not a very classy title, and many teachers will be turned off by that.

I was at the Caledonian under its original owners. Sure, we weren't paid the ultimate best, but I was treated fine by the staff and the school directors were totally fine as well. They organised trips to Dresden, Vienna and local tourist spots for us, parties, and so on. It was a fun place to work at.

I can't speak for it today though under its new owners. However, if it really is that bad, there are plenty of other places to work out - and teachers can always set up their own business and work directly with their students and clients.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

And that's not a very informed comment, David. Although, as you appear to be a wannabe management brown-noser, it comes as no surprise.

Fact is, when your employer is ripping people off and lying to get teachers in the door (see the messages above yours - did you, David?), then we all have a DUTY to blow the whistle.

Don't we, David?

Anonymous said...

Those pricks...many years ago I signed up and they had promised I would be met at the airport (did not happen) and taken to Novy Jicin where I would have my own apartment (did not happen). It was a nightmare. I spent a week in Lipnick nad Bechvo with a sympathetic non-Caledonian School local teacher there helping me - provided a place for me to stay. Finally the idiots from Caledonian showed up and took me to Novy Jicin and introduced me to my new room mate. This individual was quite psycho. There were a lot of other problems too with this school and zero support. To think, I had a MA and university level teaching experience and these fools treated me like dirt. It was a long time ago and I am in business now, but the memories still make my blood boil. Bastards! Signed - A Canadian