In this part of our investigation into TBI’s dodgy finances, we look at a scam in which they steal THR bonuses from expat teachers. The former manager of TBI Kelapa Gading is interviewed, with his responses based largely on his discussions with a former TBI Bekasi teacher and whistle-blower.
What is THR exactly?
It’s a bonus payment which all workers in Indonesia get. It is equal to one month’s salary and it is usually paid at Lebaran, the biggest holiday of the year for Muslims. Some Christians may be paid it at Christmas instead, but the point is it must be paid once annually. So in effect you should be paid 13 months salary a year in Indonesia not 12. This is the law of the land.
Are you sure that expat teachers are entitled to the money?
The relevant law does not distinguish between local and expat workers. If you are employed by an Indonesian employer, they need to pay ALL employees this payment. Nationality has nothing to do with it.
Have you ever known TBI to pay THR to expats?
No they never have. Not at the group schools. Not at the franchise schools. They are all in on the same scam from Jakarta to Malang. The Indonesians all get the money, mind you. When Wati was at TBI Kuningan her salary was around Rp 20 million a month because she was a crony of Ning Anhar, the USG Director. So at Lebaran she was paid Rp 40 million in a single month. Not bad for a country where you can buy a small house in Bekasi for twice that amount. The Indonesian managers within USG and TBI have always ensured they get their share of the THR pie, even when, in a case like Wati, student numbers were falling badly at the same time.
Could it have been an innocent mistake?
They have lawyers. When I asked Ibu Mariam why she was protecting Luke Preece despite his immoral actions in slandering people and committing fraud against other managers she said that she had had legal advice not to answer! Of course they know the law. They have revenue of many billions of rupiah a year. They know the law and have made a deliberate decision to break it, defrauding expat teachers in the process.
How can they justify not paying THR?
What justification is there for lying to people and stealing their legal entitlements? Moreover, imagining doing this systematically year after year and then sending Luke Preece in to say that he cares about teachers is deeply concerned when they are unhappy. It’s a nasty joke. Head Office is having a laugh at teachers’ expense. How can this be anything other than a con?
Why all the secrecy about this payment? Why do you think they have never breathed a word about THR?
I’m sure that they are stealing the money. It’s more than just penny-pinching going on here. A good way to think about this is to realize that Indonesian employees get 13 monthly pay cheques annually, not 12. It would be so easy to comply with the laws here unless they are up to no good and don’t want to comply, which I believe is the case. Let’s use the TBI Kuningan wage of Rp 14.3 million a month as a guide.
If you multiply that by 12, you see that TBI Kuningan teachers get around Rp 171 million per annum- or about $15,000 at present exchange rates. It may by up to a third less at some franchise schools. Now that Rp 171 million is currently dished out in 12 payments. But if they wanted to comply with the law and pay not one cent more, they could just offer 13.2 million per month instead of 14.3 million and also give out THR. For 11 months a year teachers would get 13.2 million and then at Lebaran they would get 26.4 million in one month. Problem solved.
I doubt that 13.2 versus 14.3 million would turn many teachers off working for TBI by and of itself, especially if they knew they were going to get a nice chunk of cash at Lebaran. So they could easily make this work if they wanted to. Why be under-handed, secretive and illegal unless there is something big to hide?
If they could pay this THR without paying any more money or losing any teachers, why have they refused to do so?
That’s the question, isn’t it? The answer, I believe, is someone in the corrupt inner clique has been taking the money all along. They must be breaking the law and lying to teachers for a reason. Why do people normally steal money? To enrich themselves, of course. Someone is getting the THR money- which they HAVE TO set aside under the law. It’s just that the wrong people are getting it. They have played off the ignorance of expats about Indonesian law. TBI Kuningan often employed 8 expats at once in the past- in the days before Luke arrived in Jakarta and screwed everything. Whoever stole 8 teachers’ THR would have pocketed Rp 114 million in a single year, which is enough to buy a small house in Bekasi. And that’s just one school. There were also expats at Riau, Dago and Sudirman. This scam has gone on for years.
It seems highly likely that TBI bigwigs have pocketed hundreds of millions of rupiah over the years that has been stolen from the pockets of their teachers. The alternative explanation- pleading ignorance- is completely unbelievable. Knowing what we do about these people, doesn’t it seem perfectly logical that they have been fleecing expats over and over? There is no reason I can see to believe anything they say by this point. In fact, I see them as a kind of crime syndicate. Add this to the list of TBI cons.