A leading Australian private school has been ordered to pay nearly 80,000 yuan in compensation for failing to pay its Chinese staff

2022-05-18 0 By

A Chinese court has ordered Haileybury College, one of Melbourne’s most prestigious private schools, to pay back wages to a former teacher at the school’s Tianjin campus, the Age reported on February 6.A teacher at the school resigned from his post at the Tianjin school in early 2021 and sued the Haileybury College China campus in a provincial arbitration court, claiming he was owed his salary, the report said.Haileybury has four campuses in Melbourne and one campus in the Northern Territory. Since 2013, Haileybury International School has opened an International School in China.Haileybury College campus in ChinaThe teacher, who still works in China and asked not to be identified, won the case and was awarded nearly 37,000 yuan ($8,143) in unpaid wages for several months in 2020 and 2021, according to a court ruling in November.The teacher was also awarded more than 40,000 yuan ($A8,806) in compensation for the termination of her contract.”The defendant [Haileybury] shall pay labor compensation on time and in full,” the ruling said.Haileybury, however, disputed the matter, claiming the teacher owed more to the school than her unpaid wages.The case is being appealed in another civil court, and Haileybury has not commented directly on the lawsuit.The decision comes after some staff at the school expressed concern about the way Peter Rogerson, the head of the school’s international school, had cut their salaries during the pandemic, threatening to do so if they did not return to China to restart face-to-face teaching.According to an email seen by The Age, Rogerson sent employees an email in October 2020 saying their salaries would be cut to 75 percent, 50 percent or zero of their regular salary, depending on the date they returned to China.Many of the staff were not in China at the time, as the school had switched to distance learning in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.But Rogerson gave them an ultimatum to return to China or not be paid.”I thought employees would hurry back when they finally received the PU letter [a visa document], but unfortunately I have heard that for personal and family reasons (and I don’t question their decision) some are not planning to return to China as soon as possible,” Mr Rogerson wrote in the email.”While you have the right to make that decision, there are consequences, including but not limited to, extended unpaid leave, and I need to be fair to you about that in advance.”Rogerson also said in the email that he would be loyal to those who stayed in China and those who “crossed the mountains” to return to China before the October deadline, the Swimming pool on Haileybury’s Tianjin campus (photo: The Age) reported.”Therefore, for any employees still overseas who will remain ‘absent, unpaid’, I do not guarantee that I will be able to find any remote work for them,” he wrote.Another former teacher from Haileybury school said returning to China was more difficult than expected because of the embassy shutdown and other travel restrictions, the report said.He also declined to give his name because he is considering legal action against the school.”They started getting quite a bit of opposition from parents, demanding face-to-face instruction,” the former teacher said.”The on-site teachers were so tired and exhausted that most of them said ‘These people who are still abroad, forget them, we are the ones the school should take care of.”All of a sudden we’re horrible people who don’t deserve to be paid.”The teacher also said that once he submitted his resignation, Haileybury would make it difficult for him to get his final payment, as well as any belongings still left in his apartment in China.A Haileybury spokesman said the management of the Tianjin campus did its best to assist all staff, including teachers who did not return to China for the new 2020 semester.”The Tianjin campus has supported all overseas teachers and continues to employ them at 75 per cent of their normal salary,” he said.”This pay cut was used to pay other employees overtime when they were absent.””All face-to-face teachers are paid 100 percent of their salaries, including applicable overtime.The Tianjin campus did not dismiss any staff members who left China and did not return, and four of them did not return.”The Tianjin campus in Haileybury can accommodate at least 1,200 students and offers both Australian VCE and Chinese college Entrance Examination courses.Tuition fees to send children to Tianjin have traditionally been higher than those in Melbourne, averaging 160,000 yuan ($A35,596).In addition to 48 classrooms, the Tianjin campus site includes a gymnasium, boxing room, swimming pool and mini golf course.According to the report, this is not the first time Haileybury employees have gone through legal proceedings, claiming they were treated unfairly at the Chinese campus.In 2016, two former teachers took Haileybury to the Victoria Intermediate Court for a $1m lawsuit over their treatment at the Chinese campus, which included bullying and deceiving VCE auditors.Instead of going to trial, the lawsuit filed by teachers Andrew Settle and Trudy Thomson reached a confidentiality agreement out of court.Nicholas Dwyer, the former principal, no longer works at the Chinese campus of Haileybury, according to court documents.Settle and Thomson are demanding more than A $500,000 in unpaid wages and A $5,000 in IKEA merchandise because they were given just 48 hours to vacate their apartment in Tianjin.Further claims include the loss of capital gains from selling Mr Bulleen’s house in order to move to China.Haileybury argued at the time that the couple had an employment contract with the university’s Chinese entity, not its Australian counterpart.