Payment unpleasantness

In March my school asked me to teach some afterschool lessons, at the attractive overtime rate of 30,000 won per hour. At the time I was super pleased, since the classes are during times when I have to be at school anyway, and this rate was 50% higher than the standard GEPIK pay rate of 20,000 won per hour. But it didn’t start out well. I found out when my lessons started only a few hours before they did. And then they changed venues without telling me. It can be rather embarrassing when the students have known about the venue change for days, and the teacher is wandering around somewhat clueless.

But even though there were some hiccups, and one or two classes that bombed badly, the afternoon classes were a good experience. I got a lot of confidence working with some students on a more intensive basis, and I tried out quite a few lesson ideas, some that worked and some that didn’t. Generally it was a good, if difficult and challenging, experience.

My school runs afterschool lessons in cycles, with one cycle every term. I’ve been looking forward to getting my pay for the last cycle, which I was meant to get at the end of April. When April payday came and went, I started to get worried and asked what was going on. The eventual answer was that the school was struggling to get the money from the parents, and I’d get paid when this happened. I wasn’t that happy with this, especially as my new afterschool class cycle started at the beginning of May. But I heard that this payment problem is common, so I figured I’d wait it out.

When May payday came around, I did indeed get an extra payment. But it was exactly HALF of what I had expected to be paid. So I thought the school had just made a mistake. Apparently not. Now, if you’ll recall, I was told that I’d be paid 30,000 won per hour. I found out yesterday that no, actually, I had been misinformed. The pay rate was in fact 30,000 won PER STUDENT. This is a significant semantic difference. So instead of being paid say 600,000 won for a hypothetical 20 lessons, I now get 300,000 won for a hypothetical 10 students who attended those same 20 lessons.

Let’s just say that this news was not received well by me. Especially in light of what I’d been promised, AND the fact that my GEPIK contract clearly states that for extra lessons over my 22 standard lessons a week, I’ll be paid 20,000 won an hour. So at the minimum, I should get 400,000 won for the 20 lessons. The school is trying to underpay me.

Which brings me to my point. This saga is still underway, so I’m not sure what the outcome will be. However, I have learnt a valuable lesson here. Don’t take things like payment for afterschool classes for granted. Get EVERYTHING in writing, including how much you’ll be paid and when it will be paid to you. So if I carry on with afterschool classes I’m definitely going to make sure that my hourly rate is clearly stated and that I will be paid on the first payday after the afterschool cycle ends.

I’m chalking this up to a learning experience. I’ve made my standpoint very clear to my department head: I’m not going to carry on with classes until I’m paid at least my basic rate for the previous cycle, and that the same applies to any new classes that I teach. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean that things turn unpleasant, though so far my experience in Korea has been that the firmer you are (without being nasty and demanding) the more respect you get. Definitely one to remember.

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