Saturday, April 30, 2011

If you haven't read the post below this one, it might be helpful to do so first...

No, you can't stop corruption in Thailand, so don't even freaking bitch about it.  

I had asked the school for an advance on my salary since I'd run out of money.  My last salary from OLC on March 3rd was not for the amount I was supposed to receive and I had a start date at Songsaeng of May 1st, leaving me with a measly amount of baht to live on for three months.  Plus the fact my trip to Penang was expensive and on top of all that...I was forced to attend to a motorcycle repair I'd put off for way too long...the thing finally breaking down.  

This wasn't a problem for them and since they knew my work permit was going through, they called me last Friday to come into the school to pick it up.  They called me at eleven in the morning and said "be here at 2:00 p.m." what I call lately..."The prime time for a thunder shower..." and I wasn't wrong.  

I drove the short distance to the school in a rain slicker, the rain coming down in sheets.  When I got there, I wasn't surprised to find Juliet in a rather large huff...

"We need your passport!  We have to get the paperwork to the labor office and we will have to send the required paperwork to the Teachers Council of Thailand for your teachers license!"

Standing there in the office, dripping wet, a small pool of rain-water beginning to gather at my feet, I slowly put on my best and most sarcastically evil grin.  

"Well, that's funny.  YOU told me that private schools don't have to submit paperwork to the Teachers Council of Thailand in Bangkok for a foreigners teachers license."  Whenever I'm right, Juliet just acts like she never heard what I said...but I wasn't about to let this way.  I had her and she knew it.  

"Do you remember what I told you in early March about Patong Wittaya School?  I told you they never listened to me and it ended up costing them a lot of money.  Juliet, I sent the PDF form for the teachers license in an e-mail to you the first week in March but you never printed it out.  So, after three frustrating weeks trying to impress upon you the urgency of getting the paperwork into Bangkok, I finally had to go out and purchase a printer myself so I could print the form out.  And where is that form now...almost two months later?  It's still in your folder."

I was careful with this, as you have to be careful with Thai's...they lose too much face and you'll have an enemy for life.  But, I got my point across and was pleased with myself.  Lucky for them (and me, since it was still pouring outside) I had my passport with me.  I've learned to grab all my paperwork any time I have to deal with them because invariably they will ask for something I don't have and I'd have to make the trip back home to fetch it.  

But, the real clincher was yet to come.  

I received my salary advance, signed the typical Thailand paperwork, which is always reams of paper (Thai's LOVE paperwork), and thought I was all set to go back home.  Then Juliet said to me...

"We have your work schedule now.  You will be working twenty-six hours a week (that number changed later to twenty-nine) and your first working day will be May 16th, a Monday.  So, you will receive a reduced salary in May and the normal thirty-thousand baht (30,000 baht) the end of June."

"What?" was my...rather loudly expressed...reply.  

Not only had Juliet changed my start date, which was printed on my original contract, she had informed me my salary would now be reduced because of my late start date and I would not be receiving the thirty-four thousand baht (34,000 baht) originally printed on my signed contract...A contract, that copies of which had been distributed to the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang, Malaysia, the Labor Office in Songkhla and was due to be sent to the Teachers Council of Thailand in Bangkok.  

"Are you NUTS?  You can't have me sign a contract for a May 1st start date and 34,000 baht and then two months later change that contract on me verbally!  That's highly illegal!"

I was fucking livid.  My brain was screaming at me to shut the hell up and calm down but my natural American aggressiveness that goes well beyond assertiveness was kicking in big time.  Meanwhile, Juliet had a worried look on her face and was on the phone talking to somebody higher on the totem pole.  The "Farang" was becoming unmanageable.  

To many of you reading this, no doubt it just seems straight forward to you.  But, this is Thailand...still a third-world country and listed # 78 on the 2010 International Corruption Perception Index...their rating closer to Somalia's than Denmark's #1 rating.  Hell, even the United States is low on the score, at a pitiful #22.  Thai's think nothing of screwing a foreigner, let alone one another.  

Luckily for me, Juliet remained on the phone for some time.  Enough time for me to get into my head and reason with myself.  You see, I knew I was lucky to have gotten this job and I didn't want to jeopardize it by acting out in anger...something you just don't do in this culture.  Assertiveness is a necessary attribute in the U.S. but it is NOT an attribute here.  

After another brief discussion, I played one of my acting roles...that of being befuddled.  I simply said one, short, simple sentence that basically resolved the whole thing..."I think I need to see a lawyer."

Thai's are terribly afraid of the legal process and wicked afraid of lawyers.  I was ushered upstairs to "Frowny Face's" office and was in there for about twenty minutes.  I stuck to my stance and I acted pleasant.  

"Well, yes...I understand your views but this is a legal situation.  I've already signed a legal document, copies of which have been submitted to the Royal Thai Consulate, the Labor Office, Thai Immigration and the Teachers Council of Thailand.  If you want to change the contract now, I will need the advice of a lawyer in order to understand the correct way to proceed here, as what you are attempting to do is very illegal."

Basically, I won.  The only thing not changed was the reduced salary for the month of May, since I was going to start late on the 16th, rather than the 1st.  Frowny face, the assistant manager of the school, knew I was correct but I think she took me for being some sort of pushover, which I am not.  But, my take on this whole thing was comparable to my carefully negotiating a land-mine laden piece of ground without getting my legs blown off.  

Living in Southeast Asia is certainly not for the faint of heart.  



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