Friday, May 23, 2008

A new low in Chinese labour relations

I have lamented before (most notably, here) some of the notoriously sketchy behaviour of Chinese employers - particularly in the education sector - which tends to discourage a lot of foreigners from staying here, or from coming to work here in the first place.

But I think I may perhaps have just encountered a new nadir in this sorry history (at least for us here in Beijing; out in the sticks I've heard of some really scary aberrations: teachers being held under 'house arrest' for threatening to break contracts, and so on). My pal The Chairman teaches at a private high school just outside the city. The internal politics there is getting a little bloody: the headmaster (a thoroughly slippery, incompetent, amoral shyster - and I know whereof I speak: I used to work for the slimy little shit a few years back) has found investors to back him in setting up a new school of his own; so he is plotting to jump ship this summer, and is attempting to poach most of the teachers - and the students! - to come with him. The school's owners are not unnaturally a little pissed off to discover this. However, their response has been....well, how shall I say, a little extreme. It seems they have broken into the foreign teachers' apartments while they were out at work, and stolen their documents (not their passports and work permits, but all the other supporting paperwork - degree certificates, letters of recommendation from past employers, etc. - that you need to process a new visa/work permit application).

Just when I think that China can't surprise me any more, just when I start to think that their way of 'doing business' can't get any more fucked up....... well, again and again I find myself being proved wrong.

I am recommending that they call in the police immediately - in that this seems to be the morally appropriate thing to do; though I doubt if it will do any actual good. Watch this space.

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