Ian McNamara

Contractual obligations

Always read the small print


The following was written a while ago and isn't particularly accurate. There is a disregard for contracts here but if you're employed legally - ie with a work Permit then the language of the contract Thai /English is irrelevant. In fact, according to a couple of Contract Law lawyers, a paper contract isn't required - the company's act of deducting tax from your salary confirms that you have a legally binding contract with your employer. You should be able to get some recompense if then fire you without any notice etc.

I ( insert name) take thee ( insert school's name) to be my lawful, indebted employer from this day forward. To have and to manipulate from this day forward until death ,or contractual differences, us do part.

And so with the formal contract signing completed another unsuspecting teacher joins the ranks of the legal workers - in so much as contract written in English can be described as legal.

To the average Thai worker passing the 3 month probation period often equates this milestone to now having a job for life and therefore not finding it necessary to make much of an effort to impress the boss. Ditto teachers - the graph representing naïve enthusiasm vs. time employed bears an uncanny resemblance to a ski jump.

One reason is disillusionment with the contract. A 3 page contract written in the Academic Director's own brand of legalese English is designed to lay out all the responsibilities of both parties in the most confusing manner possible and yet in such a way that if any items are questioned by the signee then they can be simply explained in a single sentence that gives the signee the impression that they must have been a real idiot for asking that question and therefore it's best to take the rest for granted.

There are ways to avoid misunderstandings - one method is to ask the new recruit "Is everything OK?" - precisely the question that we're all taught not to ask students in the classroom because they'll automatically say " Yes" and not " Nope, sorry this is total bollocks." Unfortunately asking this question always produces the " Yes" response with teachers for exactly the same reasons as it does with students - they don't want to make problems for their superiors or appear to be total idiots.

Somewhere down the road almost everyone will have a contract waved in their face and subsection 2, paragraph 4, line 3 " Thou shalt not refuse unreasonable demands." pointed out to them by a language school commandant. This catch-all is included in pretty much all contracts written in legalese - a language which even Thai ajarns have given up using as they deem it "too vague for any practical use"

Therefore the aforementioned Thai ajarns ( now referred to as " Thai ajarns" ) and the teacher ( hereafter nominally notated as " The overpaid member of staff " ) reverted to signing ( by proxy if required in the presence of no fewer than 5 witnesses of good standing) contracts ( which, from this moment on shall be known as " extremely lengthy documents written in Victorian legal jargon, which no-one has ever successfully read and understood fully but look damn impressive on paper ) be used in colleges and universities.

Which brings us back to the value of a contract. Remember when you were young and you had an imaginary friend, two if you were popular, you knew that they'd always be there for you no matter what. In good times you wouldn't have to rely on their help too often but it was always nice to know that should the unexpected happen you've got a shoulder to lean on. Then, when you're 8, reality bites and you get nicked peeing on the Headmaster's cabbage patch you find that your make believe buddy can't be relied upon to get you out of trouble.

Well, the same goes for contracts - give you a sense of security that's all - nothing you'd want to put to the test.

There are always the old standards to look out for in contracts - ‘return airfare' which ends up being the cost of a one way ticket to your home country ( so you can return there) and not actually a round trip ticket after all. Schools which put this in their contracts seem under the impression that after a year in their employ teachers will be so sick of Thailand they just want out and don't plan on returning.

The good old 10 month contract also rears it's ugly head from time to time. This is used by some of the dodgier colleges and language schools which place teachers in private schools. Again the employer appears to have a rather short sighted view. " Why should we pay them if they're not teaching?" A good point until employers recollect the hassle they had in the past and difficulties less than a year a go when trying to find someone suitable for the position - not to mention the expense - the tens of thousands of baht advertising in the Bangkok Post. Oddly enough, most farang teachers just love a 2 month unpaid holiday and will happily return to schools that provide them with this great travel opportunity - or so employers gather misguidedly.

One language school even has clauses in it's contract stating that employees aren't allowed to even utter S&%ckman's name within their hallowed halls- upon penalty of death or a fine equivalent to several years salary.

Another just decided to unilaterally declare all contracts null and void and gave it's teachers the choice between new, improved ( ahem!) ones to sign or walking out of the door.

The only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that quite a few of the wannabe movers and shakers seem to be taking a leaf out of the same ‘ Work you way to the top - The Stalinesque approach' guide for would be top management material.




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