Always read the fine print folks
Within Part 1 of this series of blogs I mentioned my skill in reading and finding important stuff within law documents. Not only did I develop this skill, I also developed a knack for finding really crucial and important sh…, um STUFF in contracts (whether I’ve signed them or just reviewed) and so here is the 3rd part to this epic story (mind you these posts are all about the past 2 days) – “Always read the fine print folks” and I’ll tell you why:
My coworker and friend from the Dominican Republic, (I’ll simply just call him ‘V’) and I both decided to quit teaching and do something else (oh yes, all my previous posts written can be applied to him as well). Now Friday July 9, I was told that I didn’t have to come in this past week if I didn’t want to (no need since I wasn’t returning). But I had books to return and needed to clean out my desk so I said that I’d be in on Monday only. Now I have a strong philosophy that if you’re going to sign your name to something (contracts especially) you had better read it carefully. I have read my contract more times than I probably needed, but boy I’m glad I looked it over one last time on Sunday July 11th. I noticed and caught a huge clause in our contracts (V and I have the same contract, just signed at different times. We both used the same agent- more on that later).
This is a direct quotation from my contract- #11 from the Appendix of the contract states “If party B (me) works the full year, Party A (Goliath see above) will pay the agency fee. If not, Party B will pay the agency fee.” The same thing is stated in Chinese in the same space. Now right below that, the owner of the school/headmaster and my signatures are there along with the official stamp of the school. (Everything official needs a red stamp, no stamp, not official, and therefore not binding)
So I call up V and say “hey look at your contract #11 and tell me if you’re thinking what I’m thinking. See V and I (and all other teachers who use the agent) paid the agent via a salary deduction, equaling half of 1 month’s pay. We certainly weren’t too thrilled to give up that kind of cash (to V and I that was 5,000rmb apiece), but we needed the job so we took it in stride. But wait! There was clause #11 saying that the SCHOOL will pay the agency if we work the whole year. Of course the school didn’t tell us about this. But we paid it, so now we should get reimbursed for this right? It was certainly cut and dry to V and I. So Monday morning first thing, we went in and asked about this. The conversation went like this:
Me-“we’d like to talk to you about this clause in our contract saying that the school will pay the agency fee”
My boss- “no we don’t give you that money. We never do this for any foreigner, we told you this (they never mentioned this) we don’t do this”
V and I- “Well ok, we’re going to the Foreign Labor Bureau and we’re going to report this to the government”