Oberon's Blog

My thoughts on Gone2Korea

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think of this Canada-based Korean ESL recruiter.

How To Quit HESS And Avoid The $20,000 Fine

Quitting HESS? Good. You’re making the right choice. But as per your contract, if you leave before your contract ends, you must fork over NT $20,000. That’s quite a hit to your budget, isn’t it? And since ‘a contract is a contract,’ I guess you have no choice but to bite the bullet and pay that fee, right? Life sucks, huh?

I’ve got good news for you: Life doesn’t suck. Oh, and you don’t have to pay that $20,000 fee, either. Not only that, this blog post will show you how to get out of paying the fee no matter what. Yes, it’s fail proof. Feeling a little better? I hope so. I had to go through this, and I was out at a tiny branch where the staff hated foreign teachers, nobody listened and nobody cared. Hello Longtan!

Anyways, there are a few likely scenarios here, and I will go over all of them. The easiest, and most common, way for HESS to get the $20,000 NT from you is by deducting it directly from your salary. Although your contract states that the employer can demand that money only after your full wages have been given to you, the reality is that many unscrupulous managers will still try to take your money directly. Managers will take this route if they think you are too ignorant and easily intimidated to stand up for yourself. Fortunately, Article 26 of the Taiwan Labor Standards act does not mince words:

An employer shall not make any advance deduction of wages as punitive damages or indemnity.

That’s right. Your branch manager must give you your full paycheck first. But it gets better. If your manager deducts your salary directly, SHE will be subject to a beautiful NT $90,000 fine. Article 78 of the Labor Standards Act states that much.

An employer who violates the provisions of Article 13, Article 17, Article 26, Article 50, Article 51 or paragraph one of Article 55 shall be fined a sum not exceeding 30,000 yuan (30,00 yuan = NT$90,000).

If your manager has already deducted the NT $20,000, go ahead and report her to the Ministry of Labor. In addition to the nice big fine that she will have to pay, the action of directly withholding an employee’s earned wages, according to licensed labor attorney Alden Su, often leads to criminal prosecution. Cool, huh?

For 90% of you, your conflict with HESS over the fine ends right here. In the majority of instances HESS will not even try to get the NT $20,000 if they don’t take it from your paycheck. Why? Because at this stage the “fine” becomes a civil matter based on a contract. This means that HESS will have to sue you to get the NT $20,000, unless of course you’re stupid enough to voluntarily fork it over. (In which case, get off my blog.)

In the rare case that HESS decides to take you to court to get that money, things become a bit more complicated.  My research has led me to the conclusion that ultimately the fee, when collected properly, is both completely legal and is something HESS is contractually entitled to. But that doesn’t mean you will pay them! The next step, as outlined in your contract, would be a legally binding arbitration hearing in front of a Ministry of Labor judge. If it comes to this, your goal will be to make the process so costly so as to simply bleed them dry until they give up. And they will: The Taiwanese just aren’t made for guerilla warfare.

I’m not a huge fan of Forumosa. There are a lot of sycophants and losers on there who will tell you to “just pay the fee.” But there was one smart guy on there who had to fight HESS to the bitter end, and ended up winning without costing himself a dime. The poster, GuyInTaiwan, not only beat HESS but was kind enough to share his story on that discussion forum. Here are some fine nuggets of wisdom from him:

 I ignored their letters or e-mails or stalled them, forcing them to send more, thus allocating more resources to my problem. 
I took them to meetings with the CLA, during which they had three people (…) present, who had to travel from Taipei. Thus, I tied up more of their resources. I threatened further meetings and mediations, which would have tied up even more of their resources. For example, I threatened to take them before the CLA for unpaid overtime for all the extra hours they made me work outside of teaching hours. Would I have won? That’s not the relevant question. The relevant question is how much, in a best case scenario (…), would it have cost them just to get to the mediation to make me lose? 
I know in my case they had at least five people dealing with this problem (…), and in the end, they probably realized I could string them along for a very long time with virtually no cost to myself, regardless of who might actually win in court (which, again, would cost them yet more resources and there would always be the risk of the media getting involved in that too). As such, I haven’t heard from them in months now. 
While that may seem like a lot of work, it really isn’t. As GuyInTaiwan said, this was all at virtually no cost to him. In collecting this unconscionable fine, HESS only has intimidation on their side. And HESS will often try to intimidate you into paying the fee. Many of these branches, after all, are run by sociopaths. If you’re still thinking about buckling to all the pressure, remember this: The NT $20,000 is a flight to Boracay and back. It’s two months rent. This is not insignificant money. 
If after this you buckle and fork over the money, frankly, you deserve to be screwed. Giving HESS the money is not “the morally right thing to do.” Like most Taiwanese managers, HESS nickels-and-dimes its employees. It tries to get as much as it can and give as little as possible, all in a crass, disrespectful way. Why on earth anyone would voluntarily hand money over to this company is beyond me, although I know fools who have. My opinion of those people is not high. If you are one of those people, just know this: The Taiwanese see you as a pushover. I see you as something even less.
To the rest of you reading this: Enjoy your NT $20,000.


Forumosa Admin: “Teach English In Taiwan? Don’t Bother.”

The admin for the most frequented web forum among foreigners in Taiwan has come out and admitted that Taiwan is no longer a viable option for people looking to teach English overseas. I’ve been saying Taiwan should be avoided for at least twelve months before Maoman. And ironically, the most hostile responses to my warnings about Taiwan have come from Forumosa. (Of course, none of those same people who lambasted me dare disagree with Maoman, the admin.)

In any case, it’s great to see Maoman come out and give this warning to newbies. Indeed, the teaching market in Taiwan has gotten markedly worse since even a couple years ago. Therefore, many of my warnings about Taiwan today actually understate how bad the Taiwan teaching market has gotten. Here’s Maoman’s warning. Heed it:


Notice how Maoman even warns against teaching in Taiwanese public schools as a licensed teacher. Personally, I think that is a bit harsh, but he would probably know better about that than I do. There’s one aspect in which I disagree with Maoman: He says coming to Taiwan for an “off year” is still an OK idea. Let me warn you: It isn’t. Taking an off year in Taiwan is a waste of your precious youth, as I’ve mentioned in another post. You’ll most likely be broke off your butt and scrapping for crap.

I applaud Maoman for posting this. Those of you who haven’t been around for long may not know this, but Forumosa’s unofficial function is to help fellow foreigners adjust in Taiwan. Unfortunately, in recent years Forumosa has become nothing but a gathering place of old farts who were newbies in a far better time and who are now out of touch with how difficult it is for newbies to carve out a decent living today by teaching English in Taiwan. Maoman’s post remedies this.

Ace Wall’s Warning to Taiwan Newbies

For all those out there wondering if I am “exaggerating” about Taiwan, here is yet another voice in the wilderness: YouTube’s Ace Wall. Listen to what this guy says. He is pretty much dead on, and unlike most clowns out there dispensing “advice,” Ace Wall does not wear rose-colored glasses. Ace says you can take or leave his advice. I think you had better take it.

Me Looking Like An Idiot

Me Looking Like An Idiot

HESS recruiters talk actively about how terrible I am, and yet they’re too stupid to realize there’s a picture of me on their front page…

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