Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chaos And Kafka


I am trying to explain to the high school physics teacher what it's like teaching English here. As an American, the language school you work for tells you, you must be able to provide an invoice to them if you want to get paid. An invoice from a company. You don't have a company? Then you can go to a certain other company. They can make invoices for you.

It turns out that this other company, for fifteen percent of your salary, will make an invoice for your school. You must independently submit your hours to your school for payment. Then submit a copy to this second company. They will bill your school. Which bill your school will pay to the other company. Which will pay you, minus fifteen percent.

According to the other company, the law in the European Union is that someone from North America or Australia or New Zealand, countries that have reciprocal tax agreements, can work in the EU temporarily, legally and without paying taxes, since they will be paying taxes in their own countries.

On Monday I was told by my school that their contract must be signed, not by me, but by other company. And I would have to ask the other company to sign a contract with me to pay me. For what they would be paying me I had no idea. I tell the head of instruction of my school that last time I waited a week for an appointment with the other company's manager, so I didn't know when I could get the contract signed. She then suggests I start my own company in my own country, the USA. How, I ask? The Internet. I go to my favorite cafe, and look up on Google my home town tax office. And yes, I can apply on line for a tax certificate, for free it seems, and the first year's tax free too. Too good to be true!

I tell my school I have applied for a Tax Certificate for the business of English Language Instruction, that it is already in effect, and I can sign a contract with them. But now the school raises doubts about the legality of this. They'll have to check with their accountant. They'll get back to me. I am in no hurry, since I started work on the 12th, the school issues payment for the period from the 20th of the month to the 20th of the next month, payment made the 8th of the following month. In other words, payment is 50 days after the first day of work. This is the 1st of the new month, and I've been working almost three weeks. Maybe some day I'll get paid.

- Sounds like Kafka, though he was from Prague. Are they trying to cheat you?

- Impossible to say. One of my students told me his instructors from another school told him they also had problems getting paid. Did he mean they were not paid? I ask. Yes.

- So you think the school hires foreign teachers and waits for them to quit because they can't figure out how to get paid?

- I don't know. The way I look at it is like this. In Kafka's stories, in "The Trial" and "The Castle" especially, it seems like organizations are against you, and it seems like there is some logic to their actions, but it is impossible to figure it out. If you want to predict where on any one leaf the vein lines divide, turn to the left or to the right, you will fail. Nevertheless there are strict rules governing the process of division and growth. It's the same with extreme bureaucracies. The have rules they follow, but the outcome depends on individual conditions about which you know nothing. Depends on rules customarily overlooked, on informal longstanding agreements, etc. If you don't know these things, you won't understand at all what is happening, no matter how clearly the rules are explained to you. You won't be able to predict the outcome of following the rules.

- So you work for nothing?

- Who knows?