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Language Training Center Astana, KAZAKHSTAN
LTC is owned and operated by a sociopath who changes teachers’ schedules, housing arrangements and contracts often without a moment’s notice. He relies upon his family’s wealth and political clout, the remoteness of Astana and relative expense of obtaining work permits to dissuade teachers from objecting to these sudden changes – in addition to having nearly every foreign member of staff on a different contract and with different working conditions (read: divide and conquer is alive and well). He has threatened the lives of teachers’ pets, made sexually inappropriate remarks about female members of staff, withheld wages and CONFISCATED TEACHERS’ PASSPORTS which required the intervention of several embassies on more than one occasion.
Hours are long – thirteen hour days (ten classes) are standard practice and teachers are often summoned by the owner in the five minute break before their last class to be informed of unexpected changes. By this stage, teachers are exhausted and unable to object. Teachers are regularly prevailed upon to work on their days off – usually with less than twelve hours’ notice – in order to conduct illegal “presentations” in public schools to collect students’ data for LTC’s advertising purposes. Planned holidays on regularly rostered days off – for which tickets can be provided as evidence – are not accepted in instances where teachers are suddenly required to do so – and refusal has previously resulted in termination of employment.
Quick Stats for a TWO MONTH period:
Foreign teachers fired: 5
Directors fired: 1
Directors quit: 2
Administration staff fired: 2
Administration staff quit: 1
In 6 months:
Foreign staff unfairly financially penalized: 4
Administration staff not paid: 3
Local teachers quit/were fired WITHOUT PAY: 10
Holidays – there are none (despite the contract stating national holidays are off, they’re quite simply not)
Health Insurance – there isn’t any (it took 3-4 months after arrival for most teachers to get theirs and it doesn’t deal with a wide range of health issues and the amount it covers is minimal at a shoddy facility at best)
Wages – they’re late. And if you’re fired there are clauses in the new contracts that stipulate a month’s worth of wages can be withheld as a “disciplinary” measure. Plus the local teachers and admin staff don’t get paid at all.
Schedule – changes weekly, if not daily. It is rare to have two days off in a row. Very, very rare.
Hours – always increasing (with the recent sacking of five teachers, those who remain have had non-negotiable increases in their contact hours from 30 to SIXTY)
Teambuilding – there isn’t any. With all teachers on different schedules and different contracts, the divide-and-conquer methodology is alive and well and there's very limited opportunity for a social life.
Resources and equipment – not the best; not the worst. The books are alright but there aren’t enough of them. The CDs that accompany the books generally don’t work, and the students often don’t have books at all which means a lot of time running around making photocopies.
Syllabus – heavy on tests; light on creativity.
Opportunities for professional development – ?
For more information, please see below for a more detailed timeline of events:
• The Employer entered the residence of a teacher to conduct some repairs. Following a work-related disagreement, the Employer picked up the teacher’s pet kitten and held it out the thirteenth-storey window (while apoplectically screaming “Do you care about this cat!?!”) as a means of winning the argument.
• Following a disagreement with a teacher regarding holidays, the Employer decided to restrict teachers’ movements out of the country by withholding all passports. It was not until several teachers contacted their embassies for advice, and subsequently informed the Employer his actions were in violation of international laws, that the passports were returned.
• Several new teachers arrived and were subject to an unpaid week of “training” for which they simply taught normal classes in accordance with existing lesson trajectories – very little actual training involved – limited observation, zero guidance apart from brief photocopier tutorials.
• The new arrivals unknowingly had their departure cards withheld. (Exit from KZ is apparently very difficult to orchestrate without them, and serves a similar purpose to withholding a person’s passport) A month later the cards were returned with a botched explanation of a dispute between the Employer and a previous employee – one none of the new teachers had ever met.
• For health reasons that could not be resolved in-country, a married couple were forced to terminate their employment agreement early and with six weeks’ notice, due to circumstances beyond the will of the parties, as stated in the contract. The Employer chose to fire them earlier than the date offered by the couple, which resulted in an uncontracted increase of hours for all other teachers, and fined both employees $500.
• International Women’s Day: all staff – even those having a rostered-day-off – were expected to attend a bizarre ceremony in which male members of staff regaled female members of staff with speeches. The Employer gave a touching piece about how he wished all the female members of staff to “have many babies”. Attendance was compulsory – those who were late were chased up by the Employer.
• An additional two teachers were hired and, due to unprofessional conduct of the Employer in conversations with male members of staff, it became known that they were “quite attractive” in advance of their arrival.
Mid 2016 (or The Great Terror)
• A teacher was fired with a 25% wage reduction for refusal to cancel a planned holiday (for the second time) to prioritize last-minute changes to the schedule.
• On the same night the Director of Studies was also fired, subsequently bad-mouthed by the Employer and unable to collect financial remuneration for three weeks of the month that had already been worked.
• It emerged that none of the local staff had contracts or health insurance, and that they had been forbidden from engaging in friendships with the foreign teachers.
• Two local admin staff who had repeatedly been told they had Downs’ Syndrome by the Employer were fired without monetary remuneration. For one person this meant forgoing three months’ salary due to repeated lateness to pay on the part of the Employer.
• A teacher was fired for refusal to allow changes to the contract that would have resulted in a dramatic and immediate increase of hours.
• A teacher was fired without good reason. After some conversation, the Employer finally admitted to having fired this teacher because he anticipated imminent difficulty in negotiations about the uncontracted increase of hours to occur with the onset of “summer camp”.
• One of the few remaining administration staff quit.
• The other Director of Studies quit.
• A teacher was fired without good reason.
• A teacher was fired without good reason (although it coincides with the end of summer camp).
N.B. At no point during the months of April, May or June was any effort made by the Employer to replace these members of staff. Instead the remaining members of staff were subject to dramatic increases in their hours – up to fifteen hours over their contracted weekly amount.
Additionally, within the period from Jan-June, more than ten local English teachers quit. They were generally subject to a week or two of unpaid “training” (read: teaching normal classes) and it was at this time that they left having learned about the low wages and lack of both insurance and job security.
DO NOT BE TRICKED INTO FLYING ALL THE WAY TO THE WORLD'S SECOND COLDEST CAPITAL CITY ON THE STEPPES OF SIBERIA TO WORK FOR THIS MAN.