TBI Bekasi Victims- An Interview with a Former Manager (Part 2 of 3)

How did you find the TBI Bekasi victims when you spoke to them?

Let’s talk about the first two who I spoke to. I found them both very switched on, especially in terms of what TBI and the Indonesian ruling classes were really like. One of them was very well-informed abut THR and had done a lot of research into Indonesian tax law. It was him who informed me that schools are legally required to pay an extra month’s salary to expats in conjunction with Lebaran too. This is a very important point. TBI has sometimes employed a couple of dozen expats over 5 group schools. They were legally required to pay all of them an extra month’s salary. Someone in TBI was pocketing almost $30,000 of expat THR which no expat had ever received. That was a huge scam in itself and reveals how little TBI really respects its employees that they steal from them. He also told me that many people whisper that the English schools are fronts for money laundering for the graft-riddled coal industry, which has been making enormous profits since the China boom. This was an interesting point too as Bakrie, whose Bumi company is the largest coal miner in Indonesi, is actually on the board of USG. This man has been responsible for the Lapindo disaster (where he wouldn’t properly compensate 10,000 poor victims of a mining disaster he casued) and he was associated with Gayus and other scandals. He is widely perceived to be terribly corrupt and he leads GOLKAR, the party of corrupt tycoons founded by Suharto. When Cam was forced out of TBI by Luke, Luke lied that the woman insisting he leave was a friend of Bakrie. 

The other teacher was an interesting one too. He had also seen first-hand how TBI had allowed Binsar to terrorize expat teachers and done nothing to step in. His story also reminded me of mine in several ways. He had served as Actel at TBI Bekasi and had more than doubled student numbers through his efforts. But then Binsar had just pocketed the profits himself and lied about student numbers to avoid paying royalty payments to Head Office. He clearly under-appreciated, and rightly so. Here was a man who had doubled revenue and student numbers at TBI Bekasi and he had never been thanked or acknowledged by Head Office. And again when he had informed them about the real student numbers, they had just ignored him.

This story is very similar to my experience at TBI Kelapa Gading. When I started as school manager TBI Head Office’s candidate, Helmy V., had driven revenue down to a pitiful Rp 80 million per month. When I left on Feb. 29, 2012, 2 and a half years later, I had increased revenue to Rp 220 million a month for the first 2 months of the year and we had outstanding payments from In-House clients too. Revenue was probably close to 3 times what it had been when I started. I had gained contracts with Honda, Garuda, Volvo, Trisakti University etc. We had gained contracts with some really top local and international firms. But in all the time I had worked as manager I had never once been praised or congratulated for doubling and almost tripling revenue and getting all these prestigious contracts. In fact, Cam told me that if he ever mentioned Garuda or Trisaktui at meetings, Mariam and Ashley always changed the topic. The dysfunction at Head Office is so bad that they are riddled with jealousy when anyone outside their clique achieves success and try and ignore them or even run them down behind their back. Pauwsan, the owner of TBI KG, told me that Mariam never stopped trying to get him to fire me from 2009 and 2012 every time they spoke. I only found this out right near the end of my time there. Pauwsan is not an open or honest man generally. So in short they actually hate it when anyone outside their clique is successful because they claim, ludicrously, to be all-knowing and the only way forward for TBI. My experience as a franchise manager was very similar to that of the Actel from Bekasi.

How about the female employee from TBI Bekasi?

I knew her story for almost 18 months before we finally reported on it. She had actually been attacked by a gang of thugs a few days after leaving TBI Bekasi and had been hospitalized for 5 days. She was literally in terror of her life due to the threats at TBI Bekasi. Binsar had yelled her, discussed a paid killing of a former TBI teacher with her and man-handled her, brusing her, shortly before the attack of the thugs on motorbikes. She was also the only expat female ever to work there. Binsar would know who she was if I even mentioned the word “she” or “her”. But finally she came forward because her situation has changed and she now felt free and out of harm’s way. She does not believe Binsar will be able to get at her again.

Were there any other teachers who came forward?

There is one story I never told before. Before I moved to TBI KG, I worked at an international school in Jakarta with an English teacher- his name was SJ- who had been the first expat teacher and Actel at TBI Bekasi. He had told me TBI Bekasi only paid him Rp 9 million as Actel and that the school owner and manager was very tight with money, and he had hated working there. But that was all. I didn’t ask too many questions as I hadn’t started at TBI myself. He may have been there before these other teachers, and it seems to have been a bad school to work at from the start. But I never thought about it too much, because I’m not even sure if Binsar was the manager yet in 2008 when SJ worked there.

Was that it?

No, there was the first ever teacher who finished a contract there who contacted me at the end of 2012. He told me that TBI Bekasi was still a bad place to work, though it had improved from the situation in the earliest reports, according to his experiences. But he still described the girls’ numbers in Binsar’s BB, the yelling and ranting, the ignorant, aggressive management, the spying from Binsar’s son in the class called Kirby, the incredible penny-pinching cheapness- better lock up the sugar bowl in case the expats go nuts on the sugar- and all that stuffThe office girls still kept disappearing and the school was an unprofessional shambles. He wrote a 14 part report on his experiences there and ended up advising teachers and students to stay clear. The improvement was only in the area of salaries being paid. He was ripped off for his airfare contribution and THR. The situation was still most unacceptable and far below EF standard even.

And now a 5th teacher has come forward and has already posted 3 times about Binsar’s porn-viewing inside the school, his yelling and ranting, his irrational outbursts and all the rest. There is much more to come. So, there has been this flood of negative publicity, some of it clearly encompassing criminal fraud, and there are these constant signs of an unhealthy interest in adolescent girls from Binsar too, who is now in his mid-50s. And still TBI has not acted against this man. The mask has come off TBI and their true face is of a greedy, immoral, dishonest organisation where one crook backs up the next.

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