Photo from JF Daily
UPDATE 2: Some relief for victims of KaiEn English fiasco as ChinesePod CEO downplays Ken Carroll’s role
UPDATE: Another day, another disgruntled KaiEn English teacher
KaiEn English, one of the oldest English teaching institutions in the city went belly up very suddenly earlier this week, stranding hundreds of students and staff just before the holidays. The founders have all disappeared out of the country, the teachers haven’t been paid in two months, the Chinese staff probably for even more… and reimbursements for tuition fees? Don’t count on it. But how did a school with a 13 year history in Shanghai just go up in smoke? According to one tipster (one of the teachers), there had been signs of trouble over the last eight months.
The teacher is now owed around 40,000RMB in wages. He admits that he probably should have taken heed of all the warnings (things got so bad at one point that there was a heated teacher “uprising”) and left before the paychecks stopped coming in, but “when you believe in the company and the people that you work with, and that between you things can only get better if you work hard enough… Well, I guess that sometimes in life you’re wrong.” Sounds like the tenets of any abusive relationship.
An outline of the last couple of months at KaiEn:
The first that those within the company knew of the financial difficulties was when salary payments were postponed by fifteen days (from the 23rd of each month, working one week in hand, to the 15th of the next month, effectively working three weeks in hand). Although this was a difficulty at the time, for the majority of teachers this was not a huge issue. However, at the meeting that this suggestion was proposed, the owner was recorded as saying, “if teachers can’t learn how to budget, fuck them.”
This should have really been the first warning sign to get out…but people being people, they trusted that a new Managing Director who joined the company at this time could help alleviate the problems and guide the company to a long and prosperous future.
Fast forward till around April ’09…Salary payments have been delayed unexpectedly, with a note from HR saying that this is a temporary problem and will not happen again. Payments are made around 4 days later.
May ’09…Same thing again, but this time payment is around 8 days later.
June ’09…guess what! salary payments delayed, and travel reimbursements become lost in the system.
Cutting a long story short (because it gets a little repetitive saying the same thing happens month after month)…
November 15th, all payments come through on time (with the exception of travel reimbursements and bonuses). This comes after a near staff uprising the previous month at HQ which lasts until 2am. During this uprising, it becomes clear that only foreign teachers have been getting paid (late). Local staff, including teachers, Course Consultants and administrative staff have not been paid for several months, causing extreme difficulties for those involved.
From Nov. 15th, staff are assured that new investors have been found by the owners in Ireland, and funds are on the way for the future to ensure the continued viability of the business. Staff are somewhat reassured, although doubts remain. Still…people be people…
Monday. I go to the office to try and get reimbursement for my new Residents Permit. Look in the office, and nobody is there. Call HR and am told that they are now scared to come to the office as, “gangsters came in last Friday looking for money, and the owners have been missing for the last fifteen days”.
Tuesday – payday. No money forthcoming, realise everything has gone tits up. Worry more. Get calls from students, colleagues and friends saying my company is on TV.
Founder Brian McCloskey is now suspected to be in Ireland. Co-founder Ken Carroll allegedly flew to Taiwan a couple of weeks ago (we’ve emailed him to try to get his side of the story – if it ever comes). Partner Steve Williams has also ran off, we hear, back to England. All three were not only involved in Kaien, but also Praxis Language and ChinesePod – who knows what will happen to those companies now that a big chunk of their management team has disappeared.
In the meantime, let it be a warning. As another former-Kaien employee put it, this “should be a good case to show foreigners how little protection they have from shitty employers, and how they need to be proactive in protecting themselves.”