TBI Bekasi Teacher Report (Feb. 2013) (Part 1 of 4)

Today we re-run the longest teacher report from TBI Bekasi, sent by a teacher who finished there in early 2013. It has become a bit lost beneath the large number of subsequent posts, so we have decided to feature it again. It is very long (over 5000 words), so we have decided to run it in 4 parts. In his well-written, lucid and perceptive report, the teacher offers a stark portrait of a school in chronic decline and the man who runs it- the now infamous “slippery as an eel” Binsar Simorangkir.

My name is R**** G****** I have worked at TBI Bekasi since December 2011 until the end of January 2013. I would prefer references to my name to be blanked out, as I’d rather the results were not google searchable for my record. I am providing you with an account of my experiences with TBI to give yourself and your readers a better idea of what’s happening at TBI Bekasi.

I had previously taught at EF East Jakarta during 2010 for 1 year. Whilst there I met another teacher called P**** (name has been altered to maintain confidentiality). P*** had been in Indonesia for several years and had taught at various schools. In the Autumn of 2011 P**** started teaching at TBI Bekasi and advertised on his facebook page that they were looking for another native-speaker teacher. At that time I was in China but unfortunately the job in China fell through and I needed another job ASAP so P**** put me in touch with Binsar and the initial recruitment happened whilst I was in Hong Kong. Binsar invited me to do a teaching demonstration as soon as I was available so I flew to Jakarta on November 26th and did a teaching demo on Monday 5th December 2011.

During December 2011 and January 2012 I worked part-time on a tourist visa. It took 2 months for Binsar to arrange the working visa, which I thought was a very long time. EF by comparison like other schools took 2-3 weeks. As I just had a tourist visa I wasn’t eligible to work at all and he said he didn’t want to raise suspicions with the authorities so he only gave me limited hours; the lowest was 7 hours a week, the most was 20 hours a week when the other teacher went on holiday. So I can empathie with your other poster who said that Binsar promised hours but didn’t deliver. In my case, he just took a long time to get the working visa and that the part-time schedule was temporary.

It was difficult during this period as 7 hours a week isn’t enough work to live on. But Binsar did help me find a cheap kost for this period and I could walk to work so it was manageable. But again if your other poster was living in Jakarta and paying Jakarta rents and bus fares then these hours wouldn’t be suitable. P*** also told me that Binsar put an emphasis on making sure teachers lived nearby so he could keep an eye on them, this was the start of his suspicious behaviour. P*** didn’t live nearby and was pressured by Binsar to move closer but refused.

During this time I had to arrange my tourist visa and extension and wasn’t given assistance or reimbursement from Binsar for this process. My visa extension ran out and so I had to leave the country to go to Singapore. Whilst I was in Singapore Binsar emailed me the visa telex documentation on Friday morning at 9am for me to see the visa agent that day, so the process was very badly managed and I just made it to see the agent really for that week, else I would have had to have stayed in Singapore until the next week. Binsar said he would refund my flight. I flew with Air Asia in January which cost Rp1 million. He said that was too expensive and that P*** had flown in October for Rp800,000 and so he would only refund Rp800,000. I told him that January and the New Year are generally more expensive times to fly than October but to no avail. Incidentally my flight this year with Lion Air is Rp1 million and Air Asia is Rp1.2 million so I think the price was reasonable.

The salary offered was Rp9 million per month for 24 hours a week and Rp100,000 per hour for overtime. I knew this was a low salary for TBI but compared to my EF salary of Rp7 million it was an improvement. As it was my second year teaching I knew that the pay is still low in the ESL market for your first two years and then increases dramatically as better jobs are available, so for those reasons I was happy to accept the salary, but I wouldn’t say it was a good salary except for staying there until you found something better. Binsar had been paying P**** the other teacher his salary in cash which we thought was a bit suss as it reaked of off-balance sheet accounting (i.e. fraud of some kind) so in my contract it did state that he should pay by bank transfer so I asked him to pay by bank transfer and he has done so ever since me asking. However, incidentally, at the same time he opened another account with a different bank to pay my salary (why? I don’t know). I know this because we both opened the accounts at the same time and so it was he who suggested that I open my account with that particular bank.

All through my contract period Binsar has paid my salary in full, plus overtime, on the last day of the month with no problems. At the time of signing my contract, Binsar said he wouldn’t refund my flight from Hong Kong as he said he wasn’t obliged to. I thought that was strange as it was generally policy with most language schools to reimburse flights. So it wasn’t mentioned in the contract but I was ok at the time as it wasn’t mentioned in the negative and I thought that I would look into the law and would then be able to challenge. So later I did look into the law for foreign workers. Article 48 in the Manpower Act for foreign workers does mention an employer’s obligation to repatriate the employee to their country of origin. However, when I raised this with the Depnaker office in Bekasi they said that as I signed the contract in Indonesia then Binsar was right that he wasn’t obliged to provide an airfare reimbursement.

The second problem I had with Binsar was concerning the issue of THR (Religious Holiday Allowance). I didn’t know about THR when I signed the contract and no mention was made of it. However, as I was researching about airfare reimbursement I found out that as a practising Christian I was legally eligble for a THR payment amounting to pro-rata 1 months salary. As I signed my contract in February and Christmas is December that would amount to 11/12 of 1 months’ salary. I first raised this with Binsar in November 2012 a good six weeks before Christmas, so plenty of time for him to arrange the necessary finances. At that time he refused outright saying “No way! We don’t do that here!”. So I emailed yourself and got the contact for Ibu Mariam. She put me in touch with Hery, the TBI Franchise Manager, and Tuti the TBI HR Manager. They contacted the owner of TBI Bekasi, Pak Basuki, and I recieved an email from Hery saying that Pak Basuki agreed to pay THR pro-rata (emails included in seperate file) and they invited me to a meeting with TBI management on December 12th.

Present at that meeting were myself and my priest who had come to confirm I was a Christian and mediate on my behalf, Hery, Tuti and Binsar. Pak Basuki had been invited but had refused to come and during my whole time at TBI Bekasi I never once had any personal contact with him. In the meeting Binsar went against the previous assurance I had from Pak Hery that Pak Basuki would pay THR pro-rata and Binsar said as a foreigner I was ineligible and he wouldn’t pay. But he said if I were eligible “then of course he would pay pro rata”. To confirm at this meeting all that was raised was that I was either ineligible and would recieve 0% or I was eligible and would recieve 100% pro-rata payment. At this point TBI Management washed their hands of the whole thing. Pak Hery refused to get involved or provide anymore assistance. They simply let Binsar willingly break the law and mistreat his employees with no repercussions.

So the next day we went to the Depnaker who confirmed about the airfare issue but said they couldn’t comment on THR as the legal deadline for Binsar to pay of December 18th hadn’t yet passed so he hadn’t broken the law. But they suggested that we sort it out internally implying that I was eligble and that he should pay. The next week we then met again myself Binsar and my priest. At this point Binsar conceded that foreigners were eligible but that as it wasn’t in the contract he would only pay 50%.

I initially refused as I wasn’t expecting a 50% offer as the issue had been either I was eligible or not. In the New Year I re-read my contract and found that there is a clause which covers THR. In the renumeration section of the contract it states “Payment for the Employee’s personal income tax on salary and all allowances levied by the Republic of Indonesia will be the responsibility of the Employer.”

As THR is an allowance I told him that he was both contractually and legally obliged to pay THR. He refused and said 50% take it or leave it. I took advice from the Depnaker and they said that to take him to tribunal would be both expensive, I would need to hire a lawyer, and time-consuming as Bekasi is part of West Java I would have to travel to Bandung and the process may take over a year. So he advised to take the 50% as it was better than nothing. In my experience you can’t trust anything that TBI says. Pak Basuki had told Pak Hery he would pay pro-rata THR only to be overuled by Binsar. Binsar had said previously in the meeting of December 12th he would pay all pro-rata if I was eligble but went back on his word. Even when the contract did include allowances Binsar refused to honour his contractual and legal obligations. For these reasons I have no other option but to say that Binsar is a liar and a cheat and anyone doing business with him should trust him as much as a slippery eel.

Binsar had got me a proper working visa and KITAS which is better than other TBI schools by the sounds of things.However, he insists on keeping your KITAS as he’s paranoid you may be working elsewhere in your free time.The previous teacher, P****, complained about this and said that he wasn’t legally allowed to do so. This wasn’t mentioned in the contract but nothing changed, he kept my KITAS up until November 2012 when I got it to change my visa from single-entry to double-entry. Binsar refused to pay for me to change my visa so I had to organise and pay for it myself as I was visiting family in the US for Thanksgiving. Since then and through all the contract complaints I’ve kept my KITAS myself. When getting my KITAS back I had to sign a form saying I accepted responsibility if I lost it etc. My contract required me to teach 24 hours a week from Monday through Saturday. This was stuck to pretty rigidly for the first half of the year. However, in May 2012 the otherteacher, P****, stopped working for TBI. Since May 2012 I can confirm that I was the only legally employed native-speaker teacher at TBI Bekasi. Consequently I was regularly teaching overtime with regular schedules of 26-27 hours a week.

I feel that I have given a strong committment to TBI but that committment wasn’t reflected in their shoddy treatment when negotiating about airfare and THR. I say ‘legally-employed’ native-speaker teacher, as Binsar does employ another teacher on a part-time basis. This teacher ‘Ted Jones’ is an American guy in his 50′s? who does not have the legal documents to work at TBI Bekasi. I know this because Binsar himself told me so. TBI Bekasi got a contract with Mortar Utama Cement to teach business Englishand TOEIC preparation (the course was arranged through TBI Head Office by Luke). The course was supposed to be 25% native-speaker and Binsar told me that I would have to go as he couldn’t send Ted as the company would ask to see his working documents and that Binsar didn’t have any. Whether ‘Ted’ is here on a marriage visa or works somewhere else I don’t know. But Ted has been working throughout the year I have been here on Saturdays and since October teaching Thursdays. He also gets complaints from every class for being boring as he doesn’t do any preparation (he arrives when the class starts)and just teaches the book. But I assume that as I’m leaving ‘Ted’ may well be teaching all the classes as there is no one else. Binsar has so far failed to find a replacement for me.

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