School is changing our contracts in the spring

IE_sciteacher
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:05 pm

School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by IE_sciteacher »

Hi,

Hoping to get the collective thoughts from the ISR community on something that I have never experienced before in an international school.

My current school has came out in April and changed the contract for next year after teachers were required to give their intention for the following academic year in the fall. What are people's thoughts about this and/or have they experienced this before?

Contract changes had somethings better, somethings worse and somethings that will not impact me.
sid
Posts: 1277
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:44 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by sid »

The timing sucks, but you knew that.
I wish schools wouldn't play like this, but the truth is that sometimes they do. I've been at a school where my teaching contract was similarly changed in the spring. Same sort of deal, some good, some bad, and an unfair timeline. It happened again at a school I worked at, but after I left, and in that case it wasn't a mixed bag, but a straight up raw deal, removing benefits that everyone had been getting for years.
None of which matters to you - you have to decide to sign or not to sign, and no amount of stories from other schools will change that basic reality. Letter of intent or not, you're within your rights to walk away. The timing makes that harder, but it's still technically your choice, and you have to decide which way to go.
Good luck.
expatscot
Posts: 251
Joined: Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:26 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by expatscot »

TBH, depends on the reason behind it. If there are tax changes, they might no longer be able to offer certain things, so have to make the change. It's up to you to judge whether the changes are significant enough that, had they been there when you initially agreed to stay, you wouldn't have signed the contract, or would have asked for a shorter one.

The good thing is that just now with COVID, there seem to be a lot of jobs still going in schools which have normally completed their recruitment.
nathan61
Posts: 79
Joined: Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:08 pm

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by nathan61 »

This happens from time to time even at "good schools." But it is immoral and ungentlemanly to strong-arm employees by changing the contract in this way. Most people will take the new contract and merely complain a little because it is not worth quitting an established post just because the leaders are cowardly bullies. If they are decent leaders they should at least publicly recognize that this is not the way things should be done, or not how they were done in the good old days.
secondplace
Posts: 122
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:40 pm

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by secondplace »

What's being grandfathered in?

Do you have an option to sign the new contract or not? If you refuse, what happens?

If you choose not to sign can you walk away claiming, rightly, that the school has moved the goalposts? (Also, do you trust them to let you walk away with no downside?)

Is there any recourse to/through local law?

How significant are the changes? Not that this matters morally, but it does matter materially. Essentially, how much are you prepared to, and can you, swallow?
Rhysboy
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:43 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by Rhysboy »

Just goes to show that most international school contracts are not worth the paper they are written on.
And in many cases, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Heliotrope
Posts: 961
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 1:48 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by Heliotrope »

Rhysboy wrote:
> Just goes to show that most international school contracts are not worth
> the paper they are written on.

*some
SOME international school's contracts are not worth the paper they are written on, not 'most'.
If it was most, there would be a lot more activity on this forum, and in the reviews section. Most schools honor their contracts.
Rhysboy
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:43 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by Rhysboy »

Heliotrope wrote:
> Rhysboy wrote:
> > Just goes to show that most international school contracts are not worth
> > the paper they are written on.
>
> *some
> SOME international school's contracts are not worth the paper they are written on,
> not 'most'.
> If it was most, there would be a lot more activity on this forum, and in the reviews
> section. Most schools honor their contracts.
The point is that if an international school was to change the contract there is very little that the teachers could do, especially in countries where workers rights are not respected. How many teachers have the resources to take a school to court for breach of contract?
Heliotrope
Posts: 961
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 1:48 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by Heliotrope »

Rhysboy wrote:
> The point is that if an international school was to change the contract there is very
> little that the teachers could do, especially in countries where workers rights are
> not respected. How many teachers have the resources to take a school to court for
> breach of contract?

And my point was that most schools honor their contracts, so those contracts are worth the paper they are written on.
Yes, some (not most) schools change their contracts and very few teachers fight it, because it takes time and money. Then again, plenty of teachers break contract, and very few schools would fight that in court (perhaps a few would if you stay in the same country).
Schools that change contracts will be discussed amongst teachers (here and elsewhere) and will get fewer high-quality candidates. Teachers who break contract and pull a runner will get talked about by recruiters and will have a harder time finding a new job.
shadowjack
Posts: 2054
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:49 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by shadowjack »

I have no problem with a school changing contracts at renewal time and pointing out the changes to staff. Staff can renew or not renew based on the new terms. It is best if the school gives advance notice, so teachers can make up their minds.

Heck, if the school is in a real pickle and can present its case accurately, I might even consider a mid-year change. But I would want to know why. More money for the owner wouldn't sway me!

Otherwise, refuse, stand your ground, and be willing to accept the consequences. Alternately, agree, and after leaving for whatever reason, don't return. A contract signed under duress is not a legal contract.
PsyGuy
Posts: 10053
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:51 am
Location: Northern Europe

Response

Post by PsyGuy »

It happens all the time, often its worse. IT gets there and hasnt even moved into housing yet and there given a new contract to sign and if they dont, you get nothing. Have also seen ISs that changed the contract and benefits but they effected some ITs far more than others, such as the recent adjustment to fee/place waivers for ITs kids. Goes from getting a 100% waiver for all dependent kids to 1 at 100% the second at 50% and 0% for a third or more. Some ISs just did away with it entirely and at some ISs that meant enrolling their kids at full price tuition was more than salary or left them with salary that wasnt enough to live on. For the ITs with kids it was a lot of hurt, but it meant nothing to the single and couple ITs without kids.

Most ITs have a contract that incorporates the ISs faculty/staff policies as part of the contract and ISs can easily change a policy, which involves changing the contract. An IS can reference the salary scale into the policies the policies into the contract and can change your salary by simple restructuring the salary scale.

What are your options though, its really as @secondplace describes, what can you really do? You dont need the ISs permission to not accept the new contract. They have nullified or voided the past contract and you have no obligation to sign a new one. They can still contact your rep if you went through a premium agency, and that agency can probably do what it wants. Thats really all they can do. Youre not going to put it on your resume so there arent really any ramifications except the issue of finding a new job. If you sign the new contract are you going to let it go, or is it going to grind and fester and make you toxic. Can you trust anything they do after that? Thats really what it comes down too.

You could have legal recourse, it depends on a number of factors though. If your in country you have better access to recourse but your still going to have language barriers and the issue of legal representation. Even then its going to take time and your IS may apply to cancel your visas, making remaining difficult, even after that its likely you wont get a final adjudication for many months, what do you do for coin in the meantime. A contract isnt a suicide pact.

The VAST majority of ISs contracts arent worth the paper they are written on. The integrity and character of an ISs ownership and leadership doesnt make the contract worth more. You can have no contract and an upstanding IS thats honorable. You can be at the sleaziest of ISs and the strongest contract and legal language isnt going to mean very much. The contract doesnt have much to do with character and integrity.
Heliotrope
Posts: 961
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 1:48 am

Re: Response

Post by Heliotrope »

Yes, it can definitely be a huge blow -financially and in other ways- when it happens to you, but it does not 'happen all the time', at least not in the sense that most teachers are at great risk of it happening to them.
Only a small percentage of schools does not honor their contracts - the VAST majority of ISs will do what the contract says. That's why I'd say that the contracts are worth more than the paper they're printed on.

Yes, either . can choose to disregard that contract, just like any employment contract anywhere can be broken - international schools aren't necessarily different in that respect. Although teachers who break contract will generally not face legal action once they have crossed the border. On the other hand the disadvantage you have as an IT in the case it's the school that breaks contract is that you're not familiar with the legal system in that country, and usually you will leave the country after sh*t has hit the proverbial fan which makes it harder to sue the school.
Thames Pirate
Posts: 1108
Joined: Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:06 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by Thames Pirate »

If you haven't signed the new contract, you are under no obligation to stay. If you have, you are still free to go, but there may be more consequences re: hiring, local penalties, etc.

I would simply weigh the pros and cons of staying another year, make a choice on whether the new contract works for me for a year, and then act accordingly by either signing or leaving on the best terms you can manage at this point. Only you know what those terms might be or what the pros and cons of staying are. It sounds like this isn't an attempt to pull the rug out from under teachers, but rather a reorganisation of what should and should not be in the contract. That isn't a red flag to me. But again, you know more details than we do, and that's a gut reaction.

If you decide to stay put in a pandemic, that's totally reasonable. But then next year you will have to consider how this was handled on the part of the school as well as the reasons for the changes. If it was local law, could it happen again? If it was shady business on the part of admin, could it happen again? How likely is that? Can you live with that?

And either way, but especially if you decide to leave, will you find something better right now? It's pretty late in the game. Incidentally, my guess is the May European hiring season will be slim at best because of Covid. But that's speculation, and you won't know if you don't try.
Heliotrope
Posts: 961
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 1:48 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by Heliotrope »

Thames Pirate wrote:
> It sounds like this isn't an attempt to pull the
> rug out from under teachers, but rather a reorganisation of what should and
> should not be in the contract. That isn't a red flag to me.

I agree, but if the changes for the worse are very significant then I think the school should have communicate the upcoming changes in October (assuming they were already aware these changes might be necessary), so the teachers that would consider these changes a dealbreaker would still have time to be part of the normal recruitment cycle, instead of looking for scraps in May and June. It could very well be that they waited so long in the hopes that they would lose fewer teachers this way.

Whether or not this would be a red flag for me depends on when the admin knew these changes would be part of the new contracts.
sid
Posts: 1277
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:44 am

Re: School is changing our contracts in the spring

Post by sid »

I think we all agree the school should have indicated the changes earlier, but it changes nothing for the op. At this point, he has to decide whether to sign or leave.
Post Reply