However, this summer some schools in Jeollanam-do were deducting this additional time as "unpaid vacation." Teachers weren't told about this ahead of time and didn't learn about it until they saw extra small paychecks for July and August.
I first read about this on Facebook in September. I won't quote from people's Facebook notes, but if they'd like to share as a comment here, I'd welcome it. I bring this up now because it's being discussed in a Dave's ESL Cafe thread by a teacher in Yeosu. The thread started talking about something else related to vacation time, a clause that specifies the teacher may not leave the country above and beyond the contracted vacation time, and a clause that has always been in place, as far as I know. I replied:
Basically, you're entitled to all the international travel you had before (14 days). They're reminding you that you need to go into school for winter and summer breaks (two weeks of each), but that you may spend the rest of the time at home. Anything beyond the 14 days alloted by the contract---which, if you want to travel overseas you need to get approval---you have to stay in the country. Winter break is, like, six weeks long, and summer break is about four weeks, so that will still give you about four weeks extra leave, not counting the 14 days you use for international travel. You just have to stay in Korea for that time.
There seem to be two issues here. The first is that schools are counting any international travel days beyond those allotted in the contract, and that schools are doing so without telling teachers. Though really common sense should tell you to stick to what the contract says, some teachers apparently came to agreements with their individual schools and proceeded to take a longer vacation on the assumption there was no problem with it. The second is that teachers who didn't come to school during vacation, but didn't leave the country, have also been docked for "unpaid vacation."
I was always told to stay in Korea when I wasn't using my allotted vacation time, and indeed that seems to be the rule, though the issue in the original post was that it was never clear in the contract he signed. In fact, the most remarkable things about the original post were: (1) a contract for a Yeosu public school was only giving 14 vacation days, and (2) contracts were telling teachers they had to deskwarm for two weeks each summer and winter break. From the original poster:
They have made the following claims:
1) they have always had this interpretation of the Korean, they simply have not thoroughly enforced it (and still are not, only a select few principals are putting their foot down, but they all got the email)
2) the Korean is "difficult to understand legal Korean that lamen Koreans could not understand" - I view this as an attempt to say that any translation I get will not be good enough (unless, of course, I pay for a professional translation)
3) the edict came all the way from Seoul, it is simply impossible for anybody to resist, and it is being applied to everyone (everyone in Korea, JLP, yeosu, I don't know, but I don't think it's true of any level)
I am being told that the contracts public school teachers have recently signed DOES specify in English that there is a limit on international travel. I am trying to get a copy of their provision, so I can see if the Korean is also changed.
The main issue in mine is the fact that they are telling me the Korean is "difficult to understand" and that they are "interpreting it to say that you must stay in Korea (except for the 14 days of vacation)"
Anyway, the thread moved on to discuss some contract funny business I read about over the summer. From the original post:
I almost got fined for summer vacation, for each day beyond 14 days (m-f) I was not in Korea (counting, I think, the day you leave and day you arrive as 'not in Korea') My co-teacher made it go away, but says that I will be unable to travel during winter vacation.
Someone else, who had their summer schedule approved by their principal, HAS been fined for each day beyond the limit (a full 1/20th of their month's pay, about)
From poster Gillian:
This actually happened to me and the othe foreign teacher at my school. Our pay for the month of September was reduced by the amount of time we had spent "Out of Korea beyond our 2 weeks" for summer vacation AND they went back to last WINTER vacation and did the same! All of this was deducted in one lump sum from September's pay.
Apparently the school received the memo stating this change in enforcement policy, but my "Co-teacher" neglected to read the dang thing, so the other foreign teacher and I went our merry way none-the-wiser.
I spoke with Chris at the Jeollanam-do board of education and expressed my concerns, then I spoke directly with Mr. Yang who is in charge of recruiting foreign teachers for the Jeollanam-do board of education and who was my co-teacher at my school 7 years ago, and basically got the old, "Gee, that is too bad, but this is the way it is" routine.
Had I known that this was going to be policy, I would NEVER have resigned my contract! I have been teaching at this school for 7 years and I have NEVER heard about this, there is NOTHING in my contract that says I must remain "In country" and my contract expressly states that any special classes/camps are paid above and beyond my regular pay.
She continued in another post:
The school was fully aware of our travel plans. There are two native English speaking teachers at my school, me an one other. I am through the JCP program, the other teacher was hired directly through the school. Our contracts are almost identical.
The other teacher had his plane ticket to Canada fully paid for by the school, so they knew exactly how long he was going to be out of the country. I planned to go home over the winter, so I paid my own way to China/Hong Kong. Neither of us knew of the "New interpretation" so there was no reason for us to not say anything to the school. It was not until school started back up and BOTH OF US had re-signed our contracts, that this little bombshell was dropped on us.
When we tried to discuss this with our co-teacher, she threatened TO, and then DID, go all the way back to LAST WINTER and deducted our "Time out of country." She THEN said that if we didn't accept this, she would go back ANOTHER ENTIRE YEAR, and do the same. Needless to say, we both just sucked it up and took our medicine.
I was fined 13.3% of my total September pay and the other teacher was fined 40.7% of his September's pay (he was gone longer than me) To the best of my knowledge, it was a straight deduction--for each day "Out of country," that day's pay was deducted.
Here is what poster BigBuds said on an ExpatKorea thread (login required):
The whole thing stems from the education departments decision to allow schools to get thier teachers through their local education department or to find one themselves. The schools basically went 50/50, half getting their own and half through the education department. The education department should have known letting schools get their own teachers was just going to end up in one big fucking mess. But hey, why fuck things up now when you can do it at the very start of things, right?
Then, schools that choose to go through the education department got teachers with the standard epik/gepik contracts (two weeks vacation only, desk warming for the remainder). The schools which choose to find their own teachers were only given guidelines on what had to be in their contracts so they made up their own contracts (basically stole the epik/gepik contract and altered it a bit) and were flexible with vacation time, etc. Some other schools, which did go through the education department, let their teachers have extra vacation time instead of desk warming without the education departments knowledge.
Now the education deparment has found this all out, and they're pissed. So they are trying to fix the problem by forcing schools when they have to get a new teacher to get them through the education department and use their standard contract. The schools that didn't tell the educaton department about the extra vacation time have had their principles arse's chewed off and that's why teachers are now being told to only take two weeks vacation even if their ontracts say otherwise. It's not the schools directly doing it, it's the education departments putting pressure on the schools to do it.
The teachers that do have their extra vacation time written into their contracts have a leg to stand on with the Labor board but the rest don't. Also, as was said earlier, if a teacher does take their school to the labor board, don't expect their contract to be renewed.
The note on Facebook referred to this excerpt from a July memo sent out to native speaker English teachers here:
Many, many schools have been calling the supervisors and asking their advice on giving extra days off to teachers for summer vacation. The supervisors have decided that in fairness, it's best for schools to adhere to the vacation article in the contract which states that teachers have 34 paid vacation days (7 in summer, 26 in winter, 1 floater, and if applicable- one extra week for contract renewal). So, it's possible that if you have asked for an extended vacation, your school will opt not to pay for the additional days over and above the contractual paid vacation days. The reason being is that some principals are asking teachers to do unpaid summer camps, summer school classes, or even come in and prep when there are no students, and in the end the supervisors felt it was unfair that some were just given the whole summer off with no work obligations. So, after some discussion, they decided to advise schools to give paid vacation as per contract, and deduct accordingly for additional time off.
The note continues to say schools and principals were conflicted because, not surprisingly, some native speaker English teachers were complaining that they weren't getting as much vacation time as so-and-so at another school.
More on this, and what it means, later.